ADHD Gets Some Attention

(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Attention Disorder Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects between 1.5 and 3.5 million school-age children in the U.S., or an estimated 5% of all boys and 2% of all girls. Why ADHD affects more boys than girls is a mystery at this point. Up to 60% of these children will continue to have symptoms into adulthood. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than a million children take prescription medicines to control hyperactive behavior. The estimated cost to schools is about 3 billion dollars.

If you had ADHD, you might have had trouble reading that first paragraph without getting distracted. You might have thought of other things to do. You might have looked around the room, focusing on things other than the computer screen. You might have even gotten up and wandered off. No wonder children with ADHD have trouble being in school and focusing on school work.

Signs to Look For

Almost all people at some point exhibit some of the symptoms of ADHD. We all get distracted at times; we all have had trouble finishing work or tasks. However, children with ADHD are, according to research from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, less able to care for themselves, less able to recognize appropriate social behavior, and less able to communicate than children without ADHD of the same age. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association has a very specific listing of behaviors that must be observed before a diagnosis of ADHD is made.

There are many reasons other than ADHD why children may have these behaviors. Infections, learning disabilities, or educational issues may result in symptoms similar to ADHD.

Patterns of behavior that may indicate ADHD:

Inattention

  • Being easily distracted
  • Failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes
  • Forgetting things, such as pencils, that are needed to complete a task
  • Rarely following directions completely or properly

Hyperactivity

  • Not being able to sit still
  • Talking non-stop
  • Leaving seat when sitting is expected/instructed
Impulsivity
  • Being unable to suppress impulses such as making inappropriate comments
  • Shouting out answers before a question is finished
  • Hitting other people
  • Behavior which puts one in danger, such as dashing into the street

Some days, for some reason, these symptoms may be absent, leading others to think that the person with ADHD can control the behaviors. A definite diagnosis is difficult because there are no tests that consistently detect ADHD. A physician can only observe behaviors and guess whether the child has ADHD. Many children have trouble concentrating, or may not be in a mood to cooperate on the day they see the doctor. This could lead to an incorrect diagnosis. ADHD must be diagnosed by a health care professional who specializes in these types of disorders in cooperation with parents and teachers.

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