Amanda Logan, C.N.P.
Family Medicine, Primary Care
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Does your child have difficulty focusing on an activity or seem impulsive in behavior? When symptoms are severe enough and cause ongoing problems in more than one area of your child's life, it could be a sign of a neurobehavioral disorder, such as ADHD.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.
Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, school anxiety, troubled relationships and poor performance in school. Symptoms sometimes lessen with age. However, some people never completely outgrow their ADHD symptoms. However, they can learn strategies to be successful.
- Inattentive ADHD
Formerly referred to as ADD, people with inattentive ADHD display symptoms of inattention, but do not possess symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity.
- Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD
This subset of ADHD display symptoms of impulsivity or hyperactivity, but do not display symptoms of inattention.
People with combined ADHD display symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The is the most common subset of ADHD.
Learn more about the three different types of ADHD.
Gender differences with ADHD
ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls, but research into ADHD in adulthood suggests an almost equal balance between men and women. A lower diagnosis rate among females in childhood can result because girls with ADHD are more likely than boys to have the inattentive form of ADHD and less likely to show obvious problems.
More than half of children who experience ADHD in childhood continue to have symptoms as adults. Some women only recognize their ADHD after a child has been diagnosed and the woman begins to see similar behavior in herself. Other women seek treatment because their lives spin out of control, financially, at work or at home.
While treatment won't cure ADHD, it can help a great deal with symptoms. Treatment typically involves medications and behavioral interventions. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in outcome.
It's also important to work with a therapist who specializes in ADHD to learn coping mechanisms that are nonpharmacological to help with ADHD symptoms and behaviors. A therapist can enhance the effectiveness of the medication and give tools to empower those with ADHD using treatments that may involve behavioral, psychological, social, educational and lifestyle interventions.
Here are 5 behavioral strategies to help manage your child's ADHD:
1. Give praise and rewards when rules are followed.
Children with ADHD often receive and expect criticism more so than other children. This can really impact self-esteem. Some days, you might have to really look for the good behavior, but you should praise good behavior at least five times more often than you criticize bad behavior.
2. Give clear, effective directions or commands.
Make eye contact or gently touch on arm or shoulder to get his or her attention. Give brief, simple steps and short commands that get to the point rather than multiple directions or wordy statements and questions.
3. Establish healthy habits.
If your child is on a medication, it should be taken as prescribed. Contact your child's health care provider if problems arise. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet consisting of three meals, a snack and adequate fluids daily, and has an outlet for some form of daily exercise. These healthy habits will help your child to feel his or her best and help minimize ADHD symptoms.
4. Develop routines around homework and chores.
Work together to make a checklist of what needs to be done surrounding daily chores, getting ready for bed and school for your child to refer to when he or she gets off task. Encourage your child to use a daily planner so he or she is aware of all homework assignments. Have an established time and location for homework, and use a timer to remind your child to show you how the homework is going two to four times per hour. Factor in brain breaks if your child needs them and movement between tasks or use of an appropriate fidget.
5. Help your child build relationships, strong social skills and maintain friendships.
Be a good role model of behavior you want your child to use. Factor in some special time three to five days a week with your child that is conflict-free and does not involve a screen to help maintain a strong parent-child relationship. Help your child develop at least one close friendship. With younger children, parents may need to take the lead to arrange and host play dates or get kids involved in activities where there are kids the same age. Get tips for helping your child develop social skills.