Is it difficult for your child to stay still?


Do you think your child acts without thinking? Does your son or daughter start doing something but does not finish it? Does your child have difficulty paying attention most of the time? If you answered yes to these questions, it is important that you know more about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Many children show these behaviors regularly; however, when they persist more than six months and begin to cause problems in school, home, and other social settings, an evaluation by a mental health professional can help determine if treatment is needed.

ADHD is more common in boys than in girls. There are three main features of this disorder: 1) hyperactivity, 2) impulsivity, and 3) lack of attention. Children with ADHD may have great difficulty paying attention, find it hard to control impulsive behavior (acting without thinking of the consequences), and may be hyperactive.

It is normal for most children to have difficulty behaving or concentrating sometimes. However, when such behavior becomes the rule rather than the exception and/or begins to cause discomfort across social settings, it is necessary to find out what is happening with the child.

ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood and may persist into adulthood. If symptoms continue to manifest, they can cause problems in school, at home, or with friends.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a child with ADHD may:

•have a hard time paying attention

•daydream a lot

•not seem to listen

•be easily distracted from schoolwork or play

•forget things

•be in constant motion or unable to stay seated

•squirm or fidget

•talk too much

•not be able to play quietly

•act and speak without thinking

•have trouble taking turns

•interrupt others

It is difficult to determine what causes ADHD. However, recent studies in twins link genes to this condition. In addition to genetic links, studies also reflect other risk factors such as 1) brain injury, 2) environmental exposures (e.g. lead), 3) alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, 4) premature delivery and 5) low birth weight. There is no solid evidence that behaviors such as consumption of sugar or excessive TV watching cause ADHD; however, these activities may aggravate symptoms, particularly in certain individuals.

The process for determining whether a child has ADHD involves several stages. There is no single test that can determine on its own whether or not your child has this disorder because other diagnoses, such as depression, anxiety disorders and certain types of learning disabilities may have similar symptoms. It is also important to give the child a medical examination including hearing and vision tests to rule out other physical conditions with similar symptoms.

If you believe that your child’s behavior is similar to some of the signs described above and it is creating distress at home and in other environments (i.e. school), an evaluation by a mental health clinician may be appropriate. Contact your primary doctor or local mental health agency for assistance.


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