ADHD: Special Report
Think back to your school days. Can you remember times when you had trouble concentrating or sitting still in your seat? If not you, there was probably another student who acted this way. It is not uncommon, but some people do it all the time.
As an adult you probably get déjà vu when you see someone displaying the same behavior. They are not six or seven yeard old, but they can’t seem to stop fidgeting. This person may even have trouble concentrating or controlling their speech in meetings, resulting in sudden outbursts.
In both situations, the cause of such behavior may be ADHD – Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a condition that is often misunderstood in medical circles and in society in general. The majority of sufferers are children of school age, teenagers and adults whose condition has carried over from childhood.
In this report you will learn about what ADHD is and isn’t. What are the symptoms of the condition? How do doctors diagnose it in children, adults? Are there treatment options? Where can parents turn to for help on a daily basis? All of these questions will be answered in the next few pages. For those suffering from ADHD and the ones who love them, you are not alone.
What Is ADHD?
Here is an example of what might happen with a child suffering from undiagnosed ADHD: Teddy is a student in the second grade. He sits in the back of the class but can often be found anyplace in the room depending on the time of day. His teacher repeatedly asks him not to leave his seat. He shouts out that he is bored.
At lunchtime, Teddy seems okay. He eats but mostly talks to his classmates even when they are eating. The afternoon starts off fine. The teacher asks a question and asks the children to raise their hands to answer. Teddy blurts out the answers.
At the end of the day, the teacher calls and leaves a message with Teddy’s parents. Both appear the next afternoon for a conference. The teacher relays the incidents in class. Teddy’s father believes that he is just a little rambunctious. The teacher doesn’t agree and says that Teddy’s interruptions are becoming a problem. His mom displays a worried look because Teddy has been doing the same thing at home. Is her child showing signs of becoming budding troublemaker?
In this situation, something is going on but everyone is at a loss to explain it other than the obvious conclusions. Children with ADHD are often labeled as troublemakers by teachers. As for their peers, some don’t want to associate with them because of their outbursts and fidgeting.
The teacher in the above scenario can easily come to the erroneous conclusion that Teddy is not getting the discipline he needs at home especially if the same thing is happening there. Bad parenting is another stigma that attaches itself to parents who have no clue why their little ones are developing such behaviors. But, no matter what they try, the behavior persists.
How Does ADHD Affect Sufferers?
ADHD affects both children and adults. The adults who are diagnosed often displayed the symptoms since childhood but they were misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all at the time. In either case, it is frustrating for those affected to feel out of control with their emotions and their habits.
The disorder affects the brain, usually the part of it that controls organizational functions. The level of certain neurotransmitters like dopamine is lower in people who suffer from ADHD. This neurotransmitter binds to certain receptors in the brain to control focus and attention. Without proper levels, these functions are affected.
As a result, those with ADHD are prone to one or all of the following: impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. These areas of behavior are present in both child and adult sufferers.
What Are the Symptoms of ADHD in Children?
Children who suffer from ADHD are usually school age and older. If they display impulsivity, they are likely to present with difficulty waiting patiently for things. In line at school, they will want to jump ahead of others. When raising their hand to answer questions in class, they may blurt out the answers instead of waiting to be called on. When classmates or others are talking, they will interrupt if they have something to say.
Hyperactivity brings in a new set of symptoms. The most common is fidgeting or squirming in their seat at school or at home. When they are supposed to be seated they are often out of their seat playing with toys on the floor or sharpening a pencil. For some reason, the child has to keep moving as if they are restless.
The third component of ADHD is inattention. A child affected by this component of the disorder has a hard time focusing and paying attention for any length of time. They begin quiet and attentive but quickly their mind drifts away from the task at hand. Daydreaming is common among children with ADHD.
Functioning alone in a classroom setting is hard and frustrating for them. When it comes to doing homework or completing class work, they often forget what they are supposed to do and are ill-prepared for class. The lack of organization leads to late assignments or unfinished ones as well as poor grades. Some teachers may label them as lazy students even though they are trying their best.
What Are the Symptoms of ADHD in Adults?
In adults the problems caused by ADHD have carried over from childhood. The lack of diagnosis and treatment left the sufferer without proper understanding of their condition. In the adult world, their condition may have resulted in problems forming lasting relationships as well as affecting performance at any job that they hold.
A few of the symptoms are:
* Tardiness at work
* Mood swings and difficulty controlling their anger
* Lack of organizational skills
* Low self-esteem
Any one of these symptoms can lead to a lifetime of problems without any intervention.
What Are the Causes of ADHD?
Especially with children who suffer from ADHD, those in authority are perhaps too quick to assign blame to the parents for a child whose behavior is different from the norm. Let’s start with what is NOT the cause of the condition.
ADHD is not caused by bad parenting. No manner of discipline can prepare a parent for the onset of this disorder in their children. Your home life could be organized and your child still displays the symptoms. Along the same lines as bad parenting, watching too much television or playing video games is not a cause of the disorder either.
Food has often been blamed as a cause for ADHD. Children often consume a lot of sweets. It’s like a rite of passage. The abundance of sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavorings or food allergies is not a known cause of the disorder either. Whether or not your child takes a children’s vitamin has no bearing.
Now, what are the speculated causes? We already know that ADHD is a problem in the brain where not enough neurotransmitters that affect receptors responsible for focus, thought and organization are produced. It has been suggested that children with a relative who suffers from the disorder are more likely to develop it themselves.
These deficiencies in the brain are what separate those with ADHD and those children without it. The causes of brain changes have researchers and doctors questioning if low birth weight or lifestyle choices during pregnancy have any bearing on the condition. Brain injuries sustained in childhood may bring on symptoms similar to ADHD according to researchers.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
Doctors and other health professionals don’t have one test that will definitively say if a child is suffering from ADHD or not. One way to narrow down the diagnosis is to eliminate other possible causes for the symptoms being displayed. Disorders that are similar: Tourette’s syndrome, depression, anxiety disorders and learning disabilities.
A battery of test and questionnaires are used by developmental professionals to further determine the depth of a child’s condition. Children, their parents and their teachers (among others) are asked about behaviors at home, at school, grades, relationships with siblings and peers and overall development.
Adult sufferers who have never been diagnosed are asked about their childhood. ADHD develops in childhood not adulthood so it is important to get a sense of what they experienced early on in their lives to see if their condition is related.
There are guidelines in place to give health professionals a place to start when diagnosing ADHD. The disorder is more common in boys than in girls. Children with ADHD usually display one of the three facets of the disorder (inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity) before the age of seven. The behaviors have to have been happening for at least six months and be more severe than the normal behaviors displayed by children of that age group. If the behavior has disrupted at least two of the areas in a child’s life, meaning home and school, that criteria has been met.
Doctors also look at stressors in the home that may contribute to the behavior being displayed. Kids may show signs of inattention or impulsivity if they have recently had a death, divorce or other life-altering event in their lives.
Most of what will happen as a part of the diagnosis is not going to affect the child. For his or her part, they will be given a complete physical including a hearing and vision test. They may be asked a few questions and have their blood drawn to rule out certain conditions.
What Are the Behavorial Issues Associated with ADHD?
Until a diagnosis is made and/or treatment begins, you are still left with a child who has a hard time functioning at home and at school. What can you do to deal with the behavior issues?
There are suggestions that can make your life and that of your child better than it was before. At home, you may have to revamp way of doing things but it will be better for all concerned.
* Develop house rules. Children with ADHD need order and structure to manage their behavior. As parents, we often make rules and may bend them a little depending on the circumstance. With this disorder, rules that are made need to be adhered to by you and others so your child has consistency in his life. Also devise a reward and consequence system to go along with following and breaking the rules.
* Create a schedule. Setting down times for each activity that your child is involved in helps them to focus on what they are doing and what will come next. Suggestions include: waking time in the morning, homework time, chore time, free time, bath time and bedtime.
* Help your child to understand what you are asking them to do. Part of inattention is not listening clearly or understanding directions that are given. When you talk to your child, make sure that you are using short words and speaking in a calm way to them.
* Supervise your child at all times. Pull them aside and correct inappropriate behaviors by offering a more appropriate action. Watch them with their friends to see how they are interacting. Let them know later when they have done well.
* Work on homework together. Learn to break assignments up into little parts so that your child can concentrate fully. Choose a quiet area to help them focus.
You will also need to discuss the diagnosis with your child’s teachers. They will need to be aware of the disorder. Speak with the guidance counselor to arrange for any special services your child is eligible for as an ADHD sufferer. Children with special needs are given an IEP – Individual Education Plan – at school so that their status and progress are addressed with parents, school social worker, counselor, principal, teachers and other professionals involved in their care.
With lifestyle changes that are geared towards your child’s progress and treatment, they can learn to manage their disorder. Children who are accepted and maintain a support system can grow up to be well-adjusted adults.
What is the Treatment for Children with ADHD?
Doctors have developed many treatment options for children and adults with ADHD. The number one thing is to educate your child and you about which options are available to you. When the diagnosis is made, you are going to want to discuss treatment.
Medications play a big role in reducing the severity of the symptoms of the disorder. There are three types of medications used to treat ADHD: stimulants, non-stimulants and antidepressants. Stimulants are the most common drug prescribed. Here is where you will see Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine and Adderall. Depending on the stimulant, your child may need one or several doses each day. Side effects include: stomachaches, headaches, jitters and loss of appetite and insomnia.
Non-stimulants act similar to the medications mentioned above in the body. The main difference is that they have fewer side effects and is non-habit forming. An example of this type of drug is Strattera.
Antidepressants have been shown to positively affect the symptoms of ADHD in all three areas of the disorder. There are side effects from putting children on antidepressants: constipation, dry mouth, dizziness and urinary problems. When other medications are not working, antidepressants could be another avenue for managing symptoms.
The antidepressant Wellbutrin works for both children and adult sufferers. Other antidepressant drugs may be prescribed for adults like Zoloft, Effexor or MAO inhibitors.
What is Behavior Therapy?
Behavior Therapy is a complementary treatment that is used to help ADHD sufferers to manage their disorder. Two kinds of therapy that are used are cognitive behavior therapy and psychotherapy.
What Is Cognitive Therapy?
Cognitive behavior therapy involves dealing with the emotions and behaviors surrounding your condition. For ADHD sufferers are taught to realistically look at their situation and use strategies to plan and manage the condition. This works better with teenagers and adults than younger children. This type of behavior therapy is not like putting on rose-colored glasses. It is instead a way to accurately describe what you feel and learn to understand your feelings.
For younger children, behavior therapy revolves around setting up a workable routine and implementing behavior modifications to manage ADHD is a variety of situations like home, school, daycare and time out in public places. Here are some pointers on behavior therapy in younger children:
* Clearly spell out boundaries in different areas and for different activities. Discuss these with your child right before the activity is to take place for maximum effect.
* Use a reward system to help your child understand when their behavior is positive and appropriate or inappropriate and negative.
* Establish a daily routine. If you have to switch from it for any reason, discuss this with your child prior to the change.
* Talk with school teachers to find out how your child is doing and if you need to make changes to their educational situation.
* Talk with your child each day to find out their feelings and frustrations from the day.
With behavior therapy, parents set an example for their child. Being consistent in your behavior may help your child stick to their routine better.
Psychotherapy is another form of behavioral therapy that may help children and adults with emotional disorders. Through psychotherapy, you also learn to manage your condition by working on the thoughts and feelings you already have. Growing emotionally is an important part of living with ADHD as a child and as an adult.
The patient and the therapist operate as a team, both giving and taking. The therapist will not talk at you or your child for an hour. The patient makes the therapy session what they will as an active participant in their own care.
What is the Role of Support Groups?
It is not easy to deal with a disorder such as ADHD. Treatments are meant to help reduce the symptoms and manage the condition for life. Those who manage well as a child will have richer lives as adults. But, because of the stigma and often misdiagnosed condition, many adults are starting at square one with their treatment and coping skills.
Support groups are necessary for both sufferers and the ones who care for them. As parents of young children, even with behavior modifications, taking steps to better your child’s like is work. To discuss your feelings and know that you are not alone, support groups provide an outlet.
If you have no time to meet outside of the home, there are online support groups to meet your needs. Discussing your issues with others can yield some interesting and creative solutions.
As adults dealing with ADHD, support groups are almost essential to your survival. Finally, you have an answer to the behavior issues you have dealt with your entire life. Meeting with others in groups in person or online is one way to begin building meaningful relationships.
Here are some online support groups to check out. For local meetings, ask your doctor or therapist for help.
* www.chadd.org – Children and Adults with ADHD
* www.4-adhd.com – Online resource for children, teens and adults with ADHD
* www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-online-community - Online community with experts available to answer questions
* www.dailystrength.org – free support groups for a variety of conditions including ADHD
ADHD affects mostly school age children. There are also undiagnosed adults who have been living with the disorder for a long time. Get help as soon as you identify your symptoms as that of this disorder. It is not curable but can be managed through a variety of treatment options.
Remember, you are not alone. You can find a support network of family, friends, and fellow sufferers to gain acceptance, confidence and, most of all, a helping hand.