Last updated on Feb 23rd, 2021 at 08:07 am

Is it ADHD, or just part of growing up?

Here’s how to recognise the signs and get the help your child needs…

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects brain development and function. While ADHD does not influence intelligence, it can impact the ability to regulate attention and emotion.

What are typical ADHD symptoms?

All young kids struggle at times to pay attention, be quiet or still, follow directions or wait their turn – but by the age of four or five most have mastered the basics of these skills to some degree.

If your child reaches school-going age and still frequently displays hallmark ADHD behaviours in multiple settings – at home, at school, or at play – it could be time to take a closer look:

  • Inattentiveness – easily distracted, struggles to focus or concentrate, has issues listening or completing simple instructions, daydreams or dawdles too much, absent-minded and prone to losing things
  • Hyperactivity – always moving, fidgety, restless, bores easily, is disruptive or has trouble staying still or quiet when needed
  • Impulsivity – acts without thought, struggles to wait their turn, seems unable to follow rules consistently, can be aggressive to other kids (eg kicking or biting) or inclined to overreact

Where to go for answers?

There is no simple test to determine whether a child has ADHD, but a qualified specialist can make an accurate diagnosis following a detailed assessment that can include:

  • a physical exam
  • patient and parent interviews
  • reports from other caregivers such as guardians, teachers or coaches
  • a review of school reports and medical history
  • tests to measure attention, distractibility and memory

This comprehensive process helps to rule out any alternative causes for a child’s behaviour, and determines if their symptoms meet the ADHD diagnostic guidelines as set out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the authoritative guide used by most health care professionals when evaluating ADHD.

While a child psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist or paediatrician is usually best equipped to determine ADHD,

it’s important to make sure your chosen clinician holds training specifically in the areas of ADHD diagnosis and treatment. If needed, ask your child’s primary care doctor to recommend an appropriate practitioner.

My child has ADHD, now what?

The outlook for most children who receive treatment for ADHD is encouraging. Multiple tools are available to help manage symptoms including medication, supplements, psychotherapy, social skills training and behavioural interventions that both parents and teachers can put into practice. Evidence also shows that a nutritional diet, regular exercise, quality sleep and other smart daily choices can help.

Your chosen clinician will recommend a treatment plan but also remember that in many cases, ADHD responds best to a combination of strategies. For this reason, it could be beneficial to consult with several specialists in order to develop a balanced long term approach tailored specifically to your child’s needs.

Help is out there and with the right support and treatment, your child can get on track for success in all areas of life.

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Sources: 

  • AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) 
  • CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) 
  • NHS (National Health Service United Kingdom)