Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
We all know there are times when kids can’t sit still or concentrate properly, but ADHD is a behavioural disorder that makes it hard for kids to focus on what they are doing, resist distraction or even control what they say. So if your child is restless, impulsive and generally hard to control, how do you know it’s ADHD and not just ordinary childhood behaviour?
Symptoms start to display early on, and there are three broad categories of ADHD. The first is hyperactivity. This means your child will be fidgety and talkative, run around when they shouldn’t and be unable to sit and play quietly. The second is inattention. This means your child will forget things, be unable to concentrate on tasks or finish them, not listen to instructions and make easily avoidable mistakes. Kids can display either or both of these symptoms, and may also experience a third category of problems, such as difficulty sleeping, mood swings, anxiety, being argumentative and feeling depressed.
The condition affects those parts of the brain that control the ability to concentrate. The NHS reports that between three and nine per cent of kids in the UK have the condition, and it’s four time more common in girls than boys.
The precise causes of ADHD aren’t known at the moment though certain factors, including smoking, drinking and drug-taking during pregnancy are thought to raise the risk. ADHD can also be hereditary, and certain food additives are linked to hyperactivity.
There is no single way to diagnose ADHD, so if your child shows this kind of behaviour in a range of situations (ie not just at home or at school) speak to their teacher. A doctor can then undertake an examination and prescribe medication, but just as important is properly-tailored emotional, social and educational support, and providing your child with a solid sense of structure throughout the day.
ADHD doesn’t affect your child’s intelligence, but it can make learning in a conventional setting difficult. For many kids, though not all, the symptoms grow less in adolescence and about half of affected children will grow out of the condition by adulthood. Nevertheless, having a child with ADHD can be a challenging experience for families, so it’s important to make sure both they and you get all the support available.
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