Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed disorder of childhood. It is estimated to affect three to five percent of school-age children and occurs three times more often in boys than in girls. On average, about one child in every classroom in the United States needs help for this disorder. Learn the facts about ADHD and then get support and advice from other moms whose children have this disorder.
1. What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
ADHD refers to a family of related chronic neurobiological disorders that interfere with a person's capacity to regulate activity level (hyperactivity), inhibit behavior (impulsivity) and attend to tasks (inattention) in developmentally appropriate ways.
Children with ADHD have functional impairment at home, in school and with their friends. Children with ADHD have difficulty sitting still and paying attention in class and experience the negative consequences of this behavior. They can experience peer rejection and may engage in a broad array of disruptive behaviors. ADHD has been shown to have long-term adverse effects on academic performance, vocational success and social-emotional development. As they grow older, children with untreated ADHD, in combination with conduct disorders are more likely to abuse drugs and practice antisocial behavior. They also have higher rates of injury. For many, the impact of ADHD continues into adulthood.
2. What are the symptoms of ADHD?
• Inattention. People who are inattentive have a hard time keeping their mind on one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes. Focusing conscious, deliberate attention to organizing and completing routine tasks may be difficult.
• Hyperactivity. People who are hyperactive always seem to be in motion. They can't sit still; they may dash around or talk incessantly. Sitting still through a lesson can be an impossible task. They may roam around the room, squirm in their seats, wiggle their feet, touch everything or noisily tap a pencil. They may also feel intensely restless.
• Impulsivity. People who are overly impulsive, seem unable to curb their immediate reactions or think before they act. As a result, they may blurt out answers to questions or inappropriate comments, or run into the street without looking. Their impulsivity may make it hard for them to wait for things they want or to take their turn in games. They may grab a toy from another child or hit when they are upset.
The diagnosis of ADHD can be made reliably using well-tested diagnostic interview methods. Diagnosis is based on history and observable behaviors in the child's usual settings. Ideally, a health care practitioner making a diagnosis should include input from parents and teachers. The key elements include a thorough history covering the symptoms, diagnosis, possible coexisting conditions, as well as medical, developmental, school, psychosocial and family histories. It is helpful to determine what precipitated the request for evaluation and what approaches had been used in the past. At this time there is no independent test for ADHD.