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ADHD in Children: Recognizing the symptoms

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What to look for in ADHD children

ADHD is an acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Problems with attention, activity level, and impulse control characterize this disorder. These problems can occur before the child reaches the age of seven and affect many aspects of their life.

Sometimes it is called "hyperkinetic disorders." Sometimes it is called "attention deficit disorder (ADD)" if the main problem is a lack of attention and not excessive activity.

ADHD symptoms in children

Attention, overactivity, and impulse can manifest themselves in various ways.

  • Inattentiveness:
  • Listening difficulties
  • Following instructions is not required
  • Careless mistakes
  • High Distraction
  • Daydreaming
  • Losing/forgetting things
  • Finishing tasks
  • You will quickly get bored
  • Overactivity:
  • Squirming/fidgety
  • Unable to sit still, restless, and leaving the seat without permission
  • Too much talking
  • Move quickly and with force
  • Impulsivity:
  • Waiting for things can be difficult
  • Control/interrupt conversations
  • Take turns with ease
  • Difficulty resisting temptation
  • Answering questions before they are complete
  • Take risks/have little or no fear

ADHD symptoms in older children

The symptoms will be the same for older children, with risk-taking and impulsive behaviors becoming more problematic. It will be more evident and worrying how the symptoms affect their social interactions and relationships with their peers, teachers, and family members. Young people with ADHD will have more difficulties planning and organizing their time and may also experience more serious behavioral problems.

What is the prevalence of ADHD in children?

ADHD is a common neuropsychiatric disorder that affects children and adolescents.

In the UK, ADHD affects approximately 1.5% of children aged 5-15. Rates vary widely depending on the method of study. Prevalence can range from 4-8% for the general population to up to 20% for children and youth with intellectual disabilities. Boys are more likely to be affected.

ADHD symptoms that are not as well known

More than half of ADHD children have behavioral issues (tantrums) or other more severe disorders like oppositional defiant or conduct disorder. In addition, these children often have learning difficulties such as dyslexia or developmental problems that affect their motor coordination or language. Children with ADHD may also experience social communication problems, repetitive behaviors, tics, anxiety-related issues, or depression. These latter symptoms are often overlooked because disruptive behavior is most noticeable and problematic for others.

Is it necessary that the behavior be observed at both home and school?

Yes, in the majority. Children can display ADHD symptoms or behavioral problems in any setting, but others may have more difficulty in a particular environment. For example, the child might struggle more in school if he doesn't complete tasks, is easily distracted, and is therefore disruptive. He may talk and not follow instructions during lessons, leave his seat, avoid charges, or even get into arguments with other children. Other children may experience more behavioral difficulties at home because the structured school environment helps them manage their ADHD symptoms.

It can be difficult for parents when problems become more apparent at home to feel understood and, in particular, not blamed.

The child's difficulties may vary from day to day. There will be good and bad days. It may be difficult for schools to recognize ADHD in children who appear to control their behavior well.

Risk factors for developing ADHD

ADHD is not the result of "bad parenting." Although the cause of ADHD remains unknown, a few things can contribute to it.

  • ADHD is a genetic vulnerability. It tends to run through families, but inheritance is complicated, and it is unlikely to be related to one genetic fault.
  • Brain structure and function - slight differences can occur in people with ADHD—size differences in some regions of the mind, maturity length, or chemical imbalance.
  • Other possible contributors are: being born too early, having low weight at birth, and brain damage (for instance, due to physiological causes or alcohol/smoking/drug consumption while pregnant).

What are the long-term effects of ADHD?

ADHD symptoms may lead to poor academic achievement and disruptive behaviors, which can cause school exclusions or disruptions in school placements. This can hurt long-term outcomes. In addition, poor impulse control can severely impact peer and family relationships, leading to low self-esteem and a lack of interest in playing with peers or siblings. It may also lead to increased stress at home and social isolation.

Young people with ADHD are more susceptible to being led by others to misuse substances or engage in risky behaviors.

The criminal justice system has more significant contact with young people with ADHD, mainly when it is associated with conduct disorders. ADHD is still a debilitating condition for half of young adults in adulthood.

What parents and caregivers should do to help their child with ADHD?

ADHD symptoms can be addressed by working with children and their caregivers.

  • Simple instructions
  • Create a low-stimulus environment for homework completion.
  • Set realistic homework goals, such as ten minutes per day.
  • Reinforce your achievements
  • Manage disruptive behaviors

It can be beneficial to use parenting programs that reinforce desirable behaviors. For example, working with children on self-esteem, impulse control, and emotional regulation and ensuring consistency in how caregivers parent at home and school are all helpful.

What can teachers do to help children with ADHD?

Teachers can help children understand that ADHD is not their fault but a disability that needs to be managed, even though they may be able to do a lot to help themselves.

The teacher should be able to adjust the teaching/learning accordingly, considering the individual pace of work, proximity with the teacher, movement breaks, and classroom assistants, as well as structuring play, lunch breaks, and structuring play.

You can manage classroom behavior using clear goals, timely feedback, and a token economy. Support children in their peer relationships, and provide wise counseling and psychoeducation.

Teachers play a vital role in supporting medication treatment and monitoring any interventions. In addition, teachers are essential in facilitating a health plan for education and helping with the transition.

Teachers should also look for signs of anxiety, depression, or emotional distress, as these conditions can exacerbate ADHD symptoms and disruptive behaviors.

When to refer an ADHD child

Especially when children are young, anxious, or have special needs, they may show signs of poor attention, excessive activity, or lack of impulse control.

Referral to a specialist for further assessment is recommended when the symptoms are more significant than expected for a child of that age and development. They should also interfere with schoolwork and learning. It is essential to consult a specialist even if tantrums or other disruptive behaviors are the most obvious and challenging to diagnose.

Referrals for ADHD in children

The GP, school SENCO or teacher can refer to local mental health services such as CAMHS, community pediatricians, or other local support services.

A child will be assessed to determine their difficulty level and recommend treatment after being accepted into a mental health service.

What are the treatments for ADHD?

Group Parent/Career Programmed: These programs are designed to provide psych education on ADHD and related problems and to support caregivers in responding to their child's misbehaviors and increasing prosaically behaviors using principles of social learning theory.

Individualised Parent/Carer training - This is recommended when the child's behavior is extreme or complex. It also applies social learning theory to help caregivers manage misbehavior. However, it can be tailored to the family's unique circumstances and involve live coaching.

Programs for older children: These programs help them with social skills, problem-solving abilities, stress management, and emotional regulation. Psych education is also provided to help children better understand their condition and its symptoms. This work is done using cognitive-behavioral strategies.

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