Boy with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) playing with camera
  • ADHD

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

You may have heard the terms ADD and ADHD used interchangeably. Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are indeed names for the same condition, it's just that ADHD has had several name changes in the last three decades.

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. The multi-step process to diagnose ADHD requires a medical exam, hearing and vision tests to rule out other problems with similar symptoms to ADHD, a checklist for rating symptoms of ADHD, and a history of the child from parents, teachers, and sometimes directly from the child. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, or be overly active. They do not grow out of the normal childhood tendencies to have difficulty focusing and/or behaving. A child with ADHD might be prone to daydreaming, forgetting or losing things, fidgeting, talking too much, making careless mistakes or taking unnecessary risks, struggling with resisting temptation, or having difficulty getting along with others.

Current research shows that genetics plays an important role in understanding the cause(s) of ADHD, which are largely unknown. Most recent studies focus on the role of dopamine; norepinephrine; and, most recently, serotonin neurotransmitters. Other possible causes being studied are brain injury/head trauma, exposure in utero--or at a young age--to environmental agents (such as lead) or alcohol/tobacco, and premature delivery or low birth weight. Research does not support the popularly held view that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, watching too much television, parenting, or social and environmental factors such as poverty.

There are three types of ADHD: 1. Predominantly inattentive, which is categorized by the child having trouble organizing or staying on task, paying attention to detail, or following instructions or conversations, and being easily distracted. 2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive, where the child fidgets and talks a lot, has difficulty sitting still, is constantly moving, feels restless, and struggles with impulsivity, such as interrupting, grabbing things from people, speaking at inappropriate times, or an inability to wait his or her turn. 3. Combined presentation shares symptoms of the first two types equally.

Healthy lifestyle habits will help your child manage ADHD symptoms: eating a healthy diet, getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, limiting screen time, and getting the recommended amount of sleep.

Conventional Treatment

It is important for parents to remember that ADHD can be successfully managed. Once there is an ADHD diagnosis, physicians and advocates will provide recommendations to school staff, seek out a more appropriate classroom setting, select the right medication, and help parents to handle their child’s behavior. Successful treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups, and any changes needed along the way.

In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. For preschool-aged children with ADHD, behavior therapy training for parents is recommended as the first line of treatment. Behavior therapy focuses on strengthening positive behaviors and eliminating unwanted/problem behaviors. The therapy can be targeted toward the child, the parents, and/or educators. Previous research has found that behavioral peer intervention, which is a form of behavior therapy in which teachers train other students to support a child’s positive behaviors, can be effective as well. Within the classroom, children with ADHD are aided by environmental control of noise and visual stimulation, appropriate task length, and teacher proximity.

Medications help children focus, learn, and stay calm. Stimulant drugs are most widely used as ADHD treatment. Frequency and amount of dosage should be evaluated regularly by the physician to ensure optimal response and to monitor for side effects. Nonstimulant drugs are sometimes used, but data is mixed as to their efficacy compared with stimulant drugs. Antidepressants can be used when stimulants are ineffective or have unwanted side-effects, but they are less effective and not generally recommended as first-line treatment medications.

Being healthy is important for all children and can be especially important for children with ADHD. In addition to behavioral therapy and medication, having a healthy lifestyle can make it easier for your child to deal with ADHD symptoms. Healthy behaviors to model include: eating a healthy diet comprised of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lean protein, nuts and seeds; getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, limiting screen time, and getting the recommended amount of sleep.

Support

At The Brain Possible, our goal is to empower you to take a holistic approach to your child’s treatment. Below are ways in which you can support several aspects of your child’s recovery; before embarking on any, be sure to discuss them with your trusted health care providers.

Physical

Emotional/Social

Sensory

Intellectual

Nutritional/Environmental

Physiological

We understand that the categorization of conditions on The Brain Possible may not perfectly describe your child.

Our goal is inclusivity, opening the door to dialogue and information sharing.