By: Rakesh J. Shah, MD, Aurora Health Care

Every child is unique. As a parent, the job is to nurture the best parts of the child’s character and help the child develop all aspects of their nature in a healthy way. If part of your child’s temperament is consistent difficulty in paying attention, nonstop talking, trouble staying still or controlling behavior, these may be symptoms of attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

What Is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

The National Institute of Mental Health says ADHD is a common mental disorder that starts in childhood and can continue into adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 11 percent of American children ages 4 to 17 have the condition.

ADHD makes it hard for a child to focus and pay attention. Some children may have trouble being patient, or they may be hyperactive. The condition can cause behavior problems at school and at home.

ADHD has commonly been associated with boys, but a study in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry shows more girls are being diagnosed in recent years.

ADHD can be difficult to diagnose in girls because of the way they respond to the condition. For example, a boy may be vocal about frustrations, a girl may internalize frustrations.

With ADHD, children may seem quiet and well-behaved but may have a hard time paying attention or may often be distracted. A child may behave badly in school without parents and teachers knowing the child has ADHD.

What causes ADHD?

ADHD’s cause is unknown, but it can run in families. Children who have ADHD usually have at least one close relative who also has ADHD. ADHD likely results from interactions between genes and environmental factors. Smoking or drinking during pregnancy may increase the risk.

What Are The Signs of ADHD?

Diagnosing ADHD can be difficult. Some symptoms may seem like normal behavior, but ADHD can make bad behaviors worse and more frequent.

Children with ADHD may:

  • Get distracted easily and forget things often
  • Have trouble paying attention
  • Be inattentive to details and make careless mistakes
  • Have trouble listening
  • Have trouble following multiple commands
  • Appear to always be “on the go”
  • Display impatience
  • Have trouble with directions
  • Have trouble finishing tasks like homework or chores
  • Lose toys, books and school supplies often
  • Fidget, squirm or run a lot
  • Talk nonstop and interrupt people
  • Touch and play with everything they see
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments
  • Have trouble controlling their emotions

A child with ADHD may also have other psychiatric diagnoses like oppositional defiant disorder, mood disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety disorder or a learning disability.

What Should I Do If I Suspect My Child Has ADHD?

Have a conversation with your child’s teacher and visit with your health care provider. The teacher may be aware of behaviors that you may not see at home. A complete picture of your child’s behavior will help your provider with diagnosis and treatment.

What Is The Treatment for ADHD?

There is no cure for ADHD, but there are treatments:

  • Medications — A stimulant and non-stimulant may help the child focus, learn, stay calm, improve goal directed behavior and organizational skills. Let your health care provider know about medication side effects, such as sleep problems or stomachaches. Your provider has medication options and can find the one that works best with minimal side effects.
  • Behavioral therapy — It can help teach children to control their behavior so they can do better at school and at home.
  • Cognitive therapy — It can help a child build self-esteem, reduce negative thoughts and improve problem solving skills.
  • Education modifications — It can address ADHD symptoms along with learning disabilities.
  • Medication and therapy combined — The child may do best with both medication and therapy.

Your health care professional can guide you in understanding and helping your child. Keep your child’s teachers in the loop, too. Your child’s success in school will get a boost when the adults around them work together. Since ADHD can affect teens and adults, the sooner a diagnosis and treatment begins, the better. Effective treatment can make all the difference in the individual living well

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