Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is typically characterized by a pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms of ADHD can vary and are sometimes difficult to recognize; many of the individual symptoms can occasionally be exhibited by anyone. For a diagnosis, however, the symptoms must be chronic and pervasive, impacting the individual’s functioning in multiple areas of their life, including home, school, work, and social settings.
Symptoms of ADHD are typically grouped into two categories of behavioral problems:
- Inattentiveness (not being able to keep focus):
- Having a short attention span and being easily distracted
- Making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork
- Appearing forgetful or losing things
- Being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
- Appearing to be unable to listen to or follow instructions
- Constantly changing activity or task
- Having difficulty organizing tasks
- Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness:
- Being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
- Constantly fidgeting
- Being unable to concentrate on tasks
- Excessive physical movement
- Excessive talking
- Being unable to wait their turn
- Acting without thinking
- Interrupting conversations
- Little or no sense of danger
Other Associated Issues:
- Emotional Turmoil: A child with ADHD may experience emotions more intensely than a child without it.
- Social Interaction Difficulties: Difficulty keeping up with social cues and managing interpersonal relationships.
- Sleep Problems: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
ADHD is diagnosed based on criteria outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). To be diagnosed with ADHD, children must have at least six symptoms from one of the two categories listed above, for at least six months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities. Often, these symptoms will present before the age of 12.
Treatment for ADHD may include:
- Medication: Stimulants are the most common type of medication used for treating ADHD, though non-stimulant medications and antidepressants can also be prescribed.
- Behavior Therapy: This includes support for the individual as well as parents and teachers to help manage behaviors and offer coping strategies.
- Parenting Skills Training: This involves strategies for parents to manage their child’s behavior.
- School Accommodations: These are changes to the classroom environment or teaching strategies to better support learning.
It is important for parents and teachers to remember that ADHD can vary widely from person to person and symptoms may improve as the child ages. However, many adults with ADHD still need ongoing support and accommodations to help manage their symptoms. With appropriate strategies and support, individuals with ADHD can lead successful and productive lives.