Recognizing the possible signs of ADD and ADHD in your children
It is normal for children to occasionally forget their homework, act without thinking or behave inappropriately at times. However, inattention, unpredictability and hyperactivity are possible signs of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which can affect a child’s ability to learn and socialize in everyday life. The first step to addressing this problem is recognizing the signs and symptoms.
- ask yourself several important questions
- your research
- identify and promote the positive aspects of the ADD/ADHD
- recognize symptoms early
- investigate other causes of problems before diagnosis
- forget to adjust your expectations
- assume kids can control their behavior
- wait for your child to outgrow the issue
- ignore the need to involve your pediatrician
- blame yourself
Do ask yourself several important questions
When considering the answers to these questions, be honest with yourself and also ask others for their opinion. Important questions include:
- Is the behavior I observe in my child similar to that of other children they encounter?
- Is the behavior I expect of my child developmentally appropriate?
- Do I see a pattern of behavior when my child engages in various activities or settings?
- Other children settle down after a flurry of activity. Does my child do this–or does my child just keep going?
Do your research
Spend time investigating what, where, when and why your child becomes overly active. Some children do very well within the craziness of a park or playground. Others see the stimulus as too much and become overly excited. Look for patterns of behaviors. Is it during a certain time of day, location and type of play outside versus inside? The more information you have, the better you can describe the issues to your pediatrician and be more informed of how to better direct the behavior.
Do identify and promote the positive aspects of the ADD/ADHD
Children with ADD/ADHD have very special talents that need to be cultivated and given channels for energy. For example:
Creativity – Children who have ADD/ADHD can be marvelously creative and imaginative. The child who daydreams and has ten different thoughts at once can become a master problem-solver, a fountain of ideas or an inventive artist. While children with ADD/ADHD may be easily distracted, sometimes, they notice what others do not see.
Flexibility – Because children with ADD/ADHD consider many options at once, they do not become set on one alternative early on, and they are more open to different ideas.
Enthusiasm and spontaneity – Children with ADD/ADHD are rarely boring. They are interested in a lot of different things and have lively personalities. In short, if they are not exasperating you–and sometimes even when they are–they are a lot of fun to be with.
Energy and drive – When kids with ADD/ADHD are motivated, they work or play hard and strive to succeed. It actually may be difficult to distract them from a task that interests them, especially if the activity is interactive or hands-on.
Do recognize symptoms early
It is vital to recognize the symptoms of ADD/ADHD in younger children. Remember that all children at some point exhibit signs of ADD, but it is the intensity, the consistency and the interruption of daily life that is more pronounced in children with a true need.
The impulsivity of children with ADD/ADHD can cause problems with self-control. Because they censor themselves less than other kids, they tend to interrupt conversations, invade other people’s space, ask irrelevant questions in class, make tactless observations and ask overly personal questions. Children with impulsive signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD also tend to be moody and overreact emotionally. As a result, others may start to view the child as disrespectful, weird or needy. Examine the intensity and consistency of these behaviors. It is not just every once in a while–but every day, multiple times a day.
Do investigate other causes of problems before diagnosis
Be sure that before a pediatrician or other professional places the label of ADD/ADHD on your child, other avenues of possible causes have been ruled out. Just because a child has symptoms of inattention, impulsivity or hyperactivity, this does not mean that he or she has ADD or ADHD. For example, other causes can include:
- Learning disabilities or problems with reading, writing, motor skills or language.
- Major life events or traumatic experiences, such as a recent move, death of a loved one, bullying or divorce.
- Psychological disorders, including anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.
- Behavioral disorders, such as conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.
- Medical conditions, including thyroid problems, neurological conditions, epilepsy and sleep disorders.
It is important to do your homework to receive an accurate diagnosis because treatment options vary greatly depending on the cause.
Do not forget to adjust your expectations
Parental expectations of their child’s behavior are not always in line with social maturity.
All children mature at different rates, and young girls tend to develop more social manners at an earlier age than young men. Parents tend to ask a lot of their younger children when they are out in the community. While these children may be doing the best they can, they are not always able to handle a 2-hour concert or a movie at their age. Parents should recognize the child’s abilities and limitations–and adjust their demand accordingly.
Do not assume kids can control their behavior
Children with ADD/ADHD may do their very best to be good, but they still might be unable to sit still, stay quiet or pay attention. They may appear disobedient, but that does not mean they are acting out on purpose. Before bringing them back to the task at hand, give them the opportunity to move and express themselves in an appropriate way.
Do not wait for your child to outgrow the issue
Be honest with yourself and your child’s presentation. Children at a young age act how their body tells them to act. They run, jump and move because it feels good to them. Give your child the attention and help he/she needs to be able to learn and experience life in ways other than just running and climbing. ADD/ADHD often continues into adulthood, so don’t wait for your child to outgrow the problem. Treatment can help kids learn to manage and minimize the symptoms.
Do not ignore the need to involve your pediatrician
Do not ignore the behaviors or avoid seeking medical help in managing your child’s behavior because you are afraid your doctor will automatically recommend medication. While medication is sometimes prescribed for ADD/ADHD, it might not be the best option for your child. Effective treatment also includes education, behavior therapy, support at home and in school, exercise and proper nutrition, so talk with your pediatrician.
Do not blame yourself
Do not convince yourself that you have failed as a parent or that you did something wrong during your pregnancy. Our lifestyles have changed over the years due to numerous advancements in health, media and education. Fifty years ago, our children spent most of their waking hours outside, playing and engaging with their peers. So, if any of us had ADD/ADHD, we probably burned it all off and collapsed at dinner time. In present day, our bodies still need this movement, but our society limits the amount of play and type of play we can engage in. And this shows up more in the classroom.
The first step to addressing ADD/ADHD is recognizing the signs and symptoms. If your child does receive a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, work with your pediatrician, therapist and school to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets his/her specific needs. Effective treatment for childhood ADD/ADHD involves behavioral therapy, parent education/training, social support and assistance at school. While medication also may be used, it should never be the only treatment.