We all know kids who can’t sit still, who never seem to listen, who don’t follow instructions no matter how clearly you present them, or who blurt out inappropriate comments at inappropriate times. Sometimes these children are labeled as troublemakers, or criticised for being lazy and undisciplined. However, they may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), formerly known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD. ADHD makes it difficult for people to inhibit their spontaneous responses—responses that can involve everything from movement to speech to attentiveness.
The signs and symptoms of ADHD typically appear before the age of seven. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between attention deficit disorder and normal “kid behaviour.” If you spot just a few signs, or the symptoms appear only in some situations, it’s probably not ADHD. On the other hand, if your child shows a number of ADHD signs and symptoms that are present across all situations—at home, at school, and at play—it’s time to take a closer look.
Once you understand the issues your child is struggling with, such as forgetfulness or difficulty paying attention in school, you can work together to find creative solutions and capitalise on strengths.
Children with ADHD may be:
- Inattentive, but not hyperactive or impulsive.
- Hyperactive and impulsive, but able to pay attention.
- Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive (the most common form of ADHD).
Other types of ADHD Include:
Inattentiveness signs and symptoms of ADHD
- Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted or gets bored with a task before it’s completed
- Appears not to listen when spoken to
- Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions; doesn’t pay attention to details or makes careless mistakes
- Has trouble staying organised, planning ahead, and finishing projects
- Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items
Hyperactivity signs and symptoms of ADHD
- Constantly fidgets and squirms
- Has difficulty sitting still, playing quietly, or relaxing
- Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
- Talks excessively
- May have a quick temper or “short fuse”
Impulsive signs and symptoms of ADHD
- Acts without thinking
- Guesses, rather than taking time to solve a problem or blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called on or hear the whole question
- Intrudes on other people’s conversations or games
- Often interrupts others; says the wrong thing at the wrong time
- Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums
Positive effects of ADHD in children
In addition to the challenges, there are also positive traits associated with people who have attention deficit disorder:
Creativity – Children who have ADHD can be marvellously 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. Children with ADHD may be easily distracted, but sometimes they notice what others don’t see.
Flexibility – Because children with ADHD consider a lot of options at once, they don’t become set on one alternative early on and are more open to different ideas.
Enthusiasm and spontaneity – Children with ADHD are rarely boring! They’re interested in a lot of different things and have lively personalities. In short, if they’re not exasperating you (and sometimes even when they are), they’re a lot of fun to be with.
Energy and drive – When kids with 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.
Keep in mind, too, that ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence or talent. Many children with ADHD are intellectually or artistically gifted.
How to live with a child with ADD or ADHD
Take care of yourself so you’re better able to care for your child. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, find ways to reduce stress, and seek face-to-face support from family and friends as well as your child’s doctor and teachers.
Establish structure and stick to it. Help your child stay focused and organised by following daily routines, simplifying your child’s schedule, and keeping your child busy with healthy activities.
Set clear expectations. Make the rules of behaviour simple and explain what will happen when they are obeyed or broken—and follow through each time with a reward or a consequence.
Encourage exercise and sleep. Physical activity improves concentration and promotes brain growth. Importantly for children with ADHD, it also leads to better sleep, which in turn can reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
Help your child eat right. To manage symptoms of ADHD, schedule regular healthy meals or snacks every three hours and cut back on junk and sugary food.
Teach your child how to make friends. Help him or her become a better listener, learn to read people’s faces and body language, and interact more smoothly with others.
To learn more about how to manage ADD, children and their emotions and ways to minimise emotional outbursts, have a look at our courses
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