What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects children’s developmental skills of staying focused, paying attention, and controlling behaviour and activity.
What are the signs to look for in children?
Children with ADHD usually have two sets of difficulties:
- Related to hyperactivity and impulsivity: Children are often very restless, can’t sit for long at one place, and are fidgety and often impulsive (i.e. they do things without thinking about the consequences). They may disturb other children in the class and even get into fights often.
- Related to lack of attention: Children cannot retain their attention on anything for long, especially on academics and other sit down tasks, they may daydream, look distracted and make careless mistakes in academics in spite of knowing the concepts. Often, children with ADHD may even have difficulties in learning.
When is a child diagnosed with ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the pre-school and early school years. Often the first people to raise concerns are pre-school teachers. ADHD is diagnosed on the basis of the history of child’s behaviours in multiple settings – home, school, playground, etc. – and on observation of the child in structured assessments. Additionally, parents may be asked to fill up parent questionnaires about their child’s behaviours.
How to assist children with ADHD?
Children with ADHD appear “normal”, i.e. there are no physical symptoms, and hence parents often feel that their child is simply “not listening” or is “stubborn”. However, there IS a condition with a neurological basis. For best outcomes, the way forward is a combination of medication and behavioural counselling, especially for the parents.
What should parents do?
For children less than 6 years, the first line of treatment is behavioural modification strategies. This means that parents have to understand what makes their child behave in particular ways and how to respond to it. In addition, children often benefit from environmental changes like distraction free study areas. They may also require sensory based strategies to improve their sitting tolerance and restlessness and this is mostly provided in occupational therapy. Parents also have to advocate for the child at school, as teachers need to be aware of how to help such children in the classroom. Scolding the children and punishing them is actually not helpful at all.
Can medications treat ADHD?
Research shows that ADHD results from a deficiency of a specific neurotransmitter in specific areas of the brain. This transmitter is norepinephrine or one of its building blocks, dopamine (or dopa). Any medicine that increases the level of this neurotransmitter in the areas of the brain involved with ADHD will significantly reduce the behaviour associated with ADHD. The group of medicines called ‘stimulants’ are most successful in treating ADHD. They mostly help the child become less restless and more attentive. However, medication works best when combined with other external modifications that parents could do to help the child, and NOT in isolation.
Who can help at SRCC?
A developmental paediatrician, psychiatrist or neurologist can diagnose ADHD. In addition, they will help you understand the role of medicines and refer you to appropriate therapists and counsellors. SRCC is soon going to offer an ADHD clinic, meant exclusively to help children with ADHD and their parents.