If your child is having difficulty focusing, sitting still, or controlling impulses, they could have ADHD – a disorder affecting millions of children worldwide and negatively affecting both school performance and life overall. With appropriate support and treatment, however, children living with ADHD can thrive!
The first step to treating ADHD is to have your child evaluated by their physician, watching for signs of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that persist and impact their daily lives. Once ADHD has been confirmed, work closely with providers and providers for your child in developing an appropriate treatment plan.
ADHD presents lifelong challenges, yet with proper care and support, children can learn to manage symptoms and unlock their full potential.
Common symptoms of ADHD
ADHD symptoms can present differently depending on the type, but some common traits include:
- Inattention – Difficulty staying focused or paying attention, easy distractibility, absentmindedness, losing track of things
- Impulsivity – Acting hastily without forethought, difficulty waiting or taking turns, interrupting others
- Hyperactivity – Restlessness, fidgeting, excessive talking, inability to sit still
- Disorganization – Problems staying on task, forgetting instructions, difficulty managing time and completing work
- Impaired executive function – Trouble planning, prioritizing, self-regulating, poor working memory
These symptoms often lead to challenges for children academically, socially, and with overall well-being. While the cause of ADHD is unclear, there are risk factors associated with it, such as:
- Family history of ADHD
- Low birth weight and premature birth
- Brain injury or trauma
- Alcohol/tobacco use during pregnancy
- High levels of environmental toxins
Diagnosing and Treating ADHD
Diagnosing ADHD involves a thorough, multi-faceted assessment including:
- Medical examination – To rule out any underlying physical conditions causing symptoms.
- Personal and family history review – Gathering information about current symptoms, childhood behavior, family mental health, and more.
- Standardized behavior assessments – Having parents, teachers, and the individual complete validated questionnaires about ADHD traits.
- Psychological testing – Formal tests to evaluate attention, hyperactivity, working memory, and other areas impacted by ADHD.
- Input from loved ones – Interviewing parents and teachers about symptoms observed at home and school.
To receive a formal ADHD diagnosis, the individual must meet specific symptom criteria outlined in the DSM-5 diagnostic manual. These include clear evidence of ongoing inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity that interfere with daily life and functioning.
While there is no cure for ADHD, effective treatment plans can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. The main treatment approaches include:
- Behavioral Therapy: Working with a therapist, coach, or counselor can teach important coping skills. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps develop strategies to improve organization, time management, problem-solving, and more. Parent training also equips caregivers to better manage child behaviors.
- Medication: Stimulant medications like Adderall and Ritalin are commonly prescribed to help regulate attention and impulse control by increasing dopamine levels. Non-stimulants like Strattera or Intuniv work differently by affecting norepinephrine or serotonin.
- Combined Treatment: Integrating behavioral therapy and medication is considered the most effective approach. Therapy addresses skill building, while medication provides symptom relief.
Other options include school accommodations, social skills training, exercise, sufficient sleep, and dietary changes. Treatment needs to be tailored to the individual based on the type and severity of symptoms.
Pediatric Services in Haddon Heights and Mullica Hill
ADHD is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that can significantly impact various areas of an individual’s life. While there is no cure, a better understanding of ADHD allows for more effective management. Though ADHD presents difficulties, awareness and support allow for the development of coping strategies and strengths.
To learn more about ADHD, contact us to schedule an appointment.