Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
What is it?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders that develop in children. Children with ADHD have impaired functioning in multiple settings, including home, school, and in relationships with peers. If untreated, the disorder can have long-term adverse effects into adolescence and adulthood.
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Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of ADHD will appear over the course of many months, and include:
Impulsiveness: a child who acts quickly without thinking first.
Hyperactivity: a child who can't sit still, walks, runs, or climbs around when others are seated, talks when others are talking.
Inattention: a child who daydreams or seems to be in another world, is sidetracked by what is going on around him or her.
Different symptoms may appear in different settings, depending on the demands the situation may pose for the child's self-control. A child who "can't sit still" or is otherwise disruptive will be noticeable in school, but the inattentive daydreamer may be overlooked. The impulsive child who acts before thinking may be considered just a "discipline problem," while the child who is passive or sluggish may be viewed as merely unmotivated. Yet both may have different types of ADHD.
All children are sometimes restless, sometimes act without thinking, sometimes daydream the time away. When the child's hyperactivity, distractibility, poor concentration, or impulsivity begin to affect performance in school, social relationships with other children, or behavior at home, ADHD may be suspected. But because the symptoms vary so much across settings, ADHD is not easy to diagnose. This is especially true when inattentiveness is the primary symptom.
If ADHD is suspected, the diagnosis should be made by a professional with training in ADHD. This includes child psychiatrists, psychologists, developmental/behavioral pediatricians, behavioral neurologists, and clinical social workers. After ruling out other possible reasons for the child's behavior, the specialist checks the child's school and medical records and talks to teachers and parents who have filled out a behavior rating scale for the child. A diagnosis is made only after all this information has been considered.
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The Treatment of ADHD
Every family wants to determine what treatment will be most effective for their child. This question needs to be answered by each family in consultation with their health care professional. Effective treatments for ADHD are available, and include behavioral therapy and medications.
The National Institute of Mental Health has many additional resources about the cause, treatment and research into ADHD.
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