ADHD refers to a behavioral disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD causes people to have very short attention spans and behave impulsively most of the time. In kids, this translates into being ‘jumpy’ all the time, an inability to sit still or focus on a single task long enough.
Why do we have an ADHD Awareness Month?
September is considered National ADHD Month in the U.S. and October is International ADHD Awareness Month. The reason behind having entire months dedicated to generating awareness about ADHD is because very few people are still aware of this extremely common disorder, even if they themselves might be suffering. In fact, many adults of our generation are now realizing that they had undiagnosed ADHD as a child.
How common is ADHD and what causes it?
ADHD is fairly common the world over, with no partiality to any race or region. Of course, diagnosis is more advanced in developed countries, which would lead to more confirmed cases. ADHD is found to be more common in boys than in girls.
The exact cause of ADHD is unknown, although some factors tend to increase its likelihood. Exposure to drugs, alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy can up the risk of the child having ADHD later. Premature babies and kids who have parents or siblings with ADHD are also at a higher risk.
How is ADHD diagnosed?
While you may not be qualified to make a diagnosis, you’re sure to notice some obvious signs of ADHD at home and you’ll also get frequent complaints from school. ADHD can only be confirmed in a child above 6 years of age, since younger kids often display symptoms similar to ADHD even if they don’t have it. Kids between 6 and 12 years with ADHD commonly exhibit the following symptoms:
1. Difficulty focusing on a single task for the required time
2. Forgetful, misplacing regularly used items most of the time
3. Easily distracted
4. Fidgety behavior, keeps moving and touching things
5. Inability to sit still at a place, at home or in school
6. Inability to wait for one’s turn and seems impatient
7. Difficulty paying attention in class, resulting in poor grades
8. Rarely finishes a task completely, preferring to jump to the next one
Please remember that there is a difference between a child with ADHD and one who’s just ‘full of beans’. Children with ADHD can’t help themselves and appear to behave childishly even if they’re old enough to exercise some self control. This is the reason younger kids aren’t considered for an ADHD diagnosis. The final word has to be from your paediatrician who’ll consider all the facts and make a diagnosis.
Why is diagnosing ADHD important?
Undiagnosed ADHD in school children shows itself in poor grades and incomplete schoolwork. This obviously leads to a lot of disapproving from teachers and parents which ends up demoralizing the child. In teenagers, ADHD can lead to risky behavior which can have far reaching consequences. As adults, it can affect their career and relationships, leading to further problems like depression.
How to Manage Kids with ADHD
Once your child is diagnosed with ADHD, your pediatrician will probably prescribe counseling and medication, if necessary. By the time your child is a teenager, he will have developed coping mechanisms which he’ll carry into his adult life.
1. Diet – Make sure he eats as natural as possible, avoiding processed and artificial food
2. Exercise – Give your child lots of time and space for physical play. If he’s interested, you can enroll him in a sports coaching camp.
3. Routine – Stick to a fixed daily routine for your child and the household, so there is more stability. Read our post on 6 daily routine charts for more information on routines.
4. Organization – Have a place for everything and everything in its place, and maintain the system. This leads to less forgetfulness and anxiety for your child.
5. Distractions – Manage distractions according to the situation. If your child is intently reading, don’t bother him with unnecessary tasks. If he’s doing his homework, turn off the TV or music. When he’s talking, offer your full attention.
6. Sleep – Proper sleep is essential for all kids, but more so for kids with ADHD. Ensure strict bedtimes and conditions to ensure a good night’s rest.
Helpful Resources about ADHD
1. Cory Stories: A Kid’s Book about Living with ADHD
This is an extremely popular book about ADHD. Cory has ADHD and kids can relate to his problems. He also offers solutions to deal with the condition in an easy to understand manner.
2. Learning to Slow Down and Pay Attention: A Book for Kids About ADHD
A book for older kids with ADHD, it emphasizes on the various features of ADHD that bother kids themselves, rather than their parents. This is also great for parents to understand their preteen’s point of view
3. ADHD: What Every Parent Needs to Know
While the child is obviously the focus here, parents too need a lot of support. This book is a very helpful guide that presents information in a simple manner and provides lots of encouragement to parents.
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, don’t despair! It’s very common, although not well known. It is essential for both parents and teachers to take steps to make the child comfortable and bring out the best in him.
A lot of successful people have overcome ADHD – Business tycoon Richard Branson, Actors Will Smith, Jim Carrey and Ryan Gosling, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Performer Will.I.Am – the list goes on! So don’t worry; with a little planning and support, you and your child will get through this with flying colors!