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What to Do if You Think Your Child Has ADHD

adhdYour child is constantly moving, fidgeting, chatting your ear off for hours on end and having trouble focusing on tasks: What do you do? Is it possible he or she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD often begins between the ages of 3- and 6-years old. Unfortunately, though, many cases are often misdiagnosed, resulting in improper or a lack of treatment.

In order to provide your child with the best care, it’s important to know the ins and outs of ADHD, including the symptoms, diagnosis and treatments available. This will allow you and a professional counselor or physician to determine the best course of action if your child does, in fact, have ADHD.

Three Types of ADHD

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, research suggests that the number of children diagnosed with ADHD is increasing each year. In addition, boys are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls.

If you think your child may have ADHD, it’s important to understand the symptoms associated with each type. ADHD affects children in many different ways. In fact, the three types of the disorder determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognize the differences that exist in children with ADHD.

  • Inattentive: In this case, children often have trouble focusing, following instructions and finishing tasks.
  • Hyperactive-Impulsive: Children with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD are constantly on the go and in motion while talking excessively and interrupting others.
  • Combined: Children with combined ADHD exhibit symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive.

According to Dr. Mark Ritter, child psychiatrist and ADHD specialist at the FDA, parents are not always aware of their child’s ADHD until a person outside of the family or a teacher brings it to their attention. “An educator may see that a child is fidgety, has problems focusing, blurts out answers and they have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to keep the child still and focus the child’s attention,” says Ritter.

The Diagnosis

According to Ritter, a test to determine if a child has ADHD does not exist. A diagnosis is determined after a health care professional compares a child’s pattern of behavior, established by the American Psychiatric Association, with input from the child, the parents, the nanny and educators who have observed the child.

The criteria as established by the American Psychiatric Association are as follows:

Inattentive: The child 16 and under must exhibit six or more symptoms of inattention for at least six months while also showing an inappropriate developmental level.

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
  • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
  • Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
  • Is often easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Hyperactive-Impulsive: The child 16 and under must exhibit six or more symptoms of inattention for at least six months while also showing an inappropriate developmental level.

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
  • Often is unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
  • Often is “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

In addition, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the following conditions must be met

  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more settings, (e.g., at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with or reduce the quality of social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder. The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

If you suspect that your child may be suffering from ADHD, Ritter recommends making an appointment with your pediatrician for an overall check of your child’s health to rule out any other contributors to inattention.

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