Addressing ADHD symptoms now can set your child up for success.
It can be frustrating to see your child struggling to succeed in school or at home, especially if you know their academic skills aren’t where they should be, or behavior problems are affecting their ability to participate in sports or have fun on playdates with friends. Daily reports from the teacher of missing homework or disruptive behavior might leave you with questions about whether or not your child could have ADHD.
ADHD, or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, is actually a group of mental health disorders with three different types:
Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD Children with this type of ADHD are often constantly moving around and fidgeting. They pop in and out of their seat in school, they run places instead of walk, and they have poor impulse control. Impulsive children may seem unable to resist talking, calling out, or interrupting at inappropriate times. They may run out into the street or do other reckless things.
Inattentive ADHD This type of ADHD might not be as obvious and tends to be diagnosed less frequently than the hyperactive/impulsive type. Children with inattentive ADHD are easily distracted, daydream frequently, and have trouble staying organized. Find more information about symptoms of inattentive ADHD in adults and children here.
Combined ADHD As the name suggests, children with this form of ADHD have combined symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention.
Typically, ADHD in children becomes more noticeable and is first diagnosed around five to six years of age. “That’s the age where we get to tease out just being a rambunctious, hyperactive young child, to a child that’s actually having difficulties in school and home because of ADHD,” says Alok Patel, MD, a pediatrician at New York Presbyterian-Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.
Diagnosing and Treating ADHD
To diagnose ADHD, doctors use a clinical exam including questions about behavior and performance, social factors, family history, and medical history. Doctors also do physical exams to rule out other causes for symptoms.
One important criteria for diagnosis is that symptoms appear in more than one setting. For example, a child may not have ADHD if she only blurts out comments or runs about the room in just one teacher’s class; however, if these symptoms happen in every classroom, as well as at home and in the grocery store, ADHD may be the issue.
If your child receives an ADHD diagnosis, there are a few treatment options to choose from. ADHD treatment often involves a combination of medication and therapy.
Medication for ADHD includes stimulants and non-stimulants.
Stimulant medications may improve focus and reduce impulsive behavior by targeting certain neurotransmitters in the brain, which influences decision making and motivation.
Non-stimulant medications for ADHD target a different different neurotransmitters to help children manage emotions and carry out tasks.
Some behavioral interventions for children with ADHD include training in organization, planning, time management, impulse control, and emotional regulation.
Addressing ADHD during childhood is crucial because managing symptoms will likely be a lifelong task, according to Yamalis Diaz, PhD, a psychologist at NYU Langone Health. “This is important because the foundation we set today for how they manage themselves,” says Dr. Diaz, “essentially sets the tone for what they look like as adults.”
Dr. Diaz is a psychologist at NYU Langone Health.Susan Samuels
Dr. Samuels is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and clinical pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine and an assistant attending psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.Khadijah Watkins
Dr. Watkins is an assistant professor of psychiatry in the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine and an assistant attending psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.Preeti Parikh
Preeti Parikh, MD serves as the Chief Medical Officer of HealthiNation. She is a board-certified pediatrician practicing at Westside Pediatrics, is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and is an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and has completed post-graduate training at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.Alok Patel
Dr. Patel is a pediatrician at New York Presbyterian-Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.
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All kids are fidgety and have difficulty
sitting still depending on where they
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are and how engaged they are, and
how interesting they find the activity.
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ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder is a set of disorders
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that describes kids that have
challenges with hyperactivity,
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impulsivity, and possibly inattention.
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with the hyperactivity you'll see
kids that are constantly in motion.
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So they might get up many times in
a day to sharpen their pencil or go
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to the bathroom, but really this is more
about they have difficulty sitting still.
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They don't walk anywhere, they run.
And then there's impulsivity,
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which is essentially related to poor
impulse control, like saying and
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doing things without thinking.
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This could be things like
interrupting a lot, blurting out,
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talking before people
are done asking the question.
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Darting out into the street.
The symptoms of inattention look like
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They'll complete the homework,
but will forget to turn it in.
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The backpacks will be full of papers.
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The desk will be full of pencils and pens.
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It's very difficult to find things,
which makes it very difficult to be
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We know that ADHD is
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a neurodevelopmental disorder which is due
to a chemical imbalance in the brain, but
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we don't know what causes it.
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Some research suggests that there may me
an increased risk of a child developing it
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if their mom is smoking during pregnancy.
ADHD most commonly
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gets diagnosed around that
kindergarten 5-6 age.
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And the reason why is because that's
the age where we really get to tease out
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just being a rambunctious,
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hyperactive young child to a child that's
actually having difficulties in school and
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home because of ADHD.
Diagnostic criteria for
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ADHD is that it should be present
in more than one setting.
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So for example,
it should be at school and at home.
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The symptoms should persist for
more than six months.
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And they should present for
the age of 12 years.
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We should also make sure these
symptoms that they are presenting,
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are excessive for their age, so
they are not age appropriate.
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other mental disorders should be excluded
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to make sure that that's
not what's accounted for.
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ADHD can be treated with medications,
behavioral therapy, and organizational
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skills to help them succeed.
When we talk about stimulants,
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we talk about methylphenidates and
we talk about amphetamine derivatives.
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And when we talk about non-stimulants,
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we talk about other medications that
also deal with neurotransmitters, but
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work a little bit differently.
With regard to the behavioral
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interventions, there's a lot
of things that parents and
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teachers can do to structure
the child's environment in a way that
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really maximizes their ability
to attend and get things done.
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There's also some emerging support for
organizational skills training,
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actually training kids to manage
themselves with regard to time management,
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planning, and organization.
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I think one that I really like for parents
to know about children with ADHD is
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that they will often
become adults with ADHD.
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And this is important, because
the foundation that we set today for
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how they manage themselves,
how they establish their own routines,
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their time management,
their organization, their planning.
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How they resolve conflict.
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How they regulate their emotions.
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That essentially sets the tone for
what they look like as adults.
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Behavioral treatments for kids with ADHD. New York, NY: Child Mind Institute. (Accessed on January 15, 2021 at https://childmind.org/article/behavioral-treatments-kids-adhd/.)How is ADHD diagnosed? New York, NY: ADDitude Mag. (Accessed on January 15, 2021 at https://www.additudemag.com/how-is-adhd-diagnosed/.) Non-stimulant medications available for ADHD treatment. Chicago, IL. American Academy of Pediatrics. (Accessed on January 15, 2021 at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/adhd/Pages/Non-Stimulant-Medications-Available-for-ADHD-Treatment.aspx.) Stimulant strategies. New York, NY: ADDitude Mag. (Accessed on January 15, 2021 at https://www.additudemag.com/stimulant-strategies/.)