Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects more than 50 000 children in Australia; and is characterised by symptoms known as hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity.
These symptoms can also be experienced by many children/teenagers without leading to a diagnosis of ADHD. It is important to have a global view of the child and what is happening in their life before making a diagnosis. The professional needs to better understand why the child is experiencing these symptoms – for example, stressful life events can impact on a child’s behaviour and cause symptoms that look like ADHD.
- For instance, a child with a new baby sibling, starting in a new school, moving regularly from place to place, or experiencing new family arrangements through divorce or loss, can start to lack focus, talk a lot, not follow instructions, and avoid things requiring mental effort, or move and fidget constantly.
- Another example would be a child always sitting quietly in the classroom, not really listening and daydreaming. This behaviour could be interpreted as being ADHD when it can potentially stem from a learning disability like dyslexia.
- Occasionally forgetting homework at school, daydreaming and fidgeting can be normal, especially with young children.
When a child starts to be labelled as “lazy” or a “trouble-maker”, and experiences difficulties in learning and making friends, it is important to explore further and investigate if a diagnosis of ADHD is appropriate.
Symptoms of ADHD
Common symptoms which may lead to a diagnosis of ADHD:
- Easily distracted;
- Difficulty in focus and concentration;
- Can only work in quiet environment;
- Day dreaming;
- Poor short term memory;
- Forgetting/losing things;
- Does not finish tasks;
- Makes careless mistakes;
- Does not appear to listen;
- Moving constantly (running and climbing in situations when it is not appropriate);
- Difficulty in sitting still;
- Talking non-stop;
- Being always on the go;
- Acting before thinking;
- Cannot wait for their turn;
- Difficulty in playing quietly;
- Very impatient;
- Leaving their seat in the classroom;
- Interrupting conversations.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5), which is widely and commonly used to verify diagnostic criteria for ADHD, the condition can be broken down into three different categories:
- ADHD Combined Type;
- ADHD Predominantly Inattentive; this was previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD);
- ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive or Impulsive.
The causes of ADHD are not yet known but a combination of factors such as environmental and genetics may be responsible.
Other Potential Difficulties
Children with ADHD often have additional difficulties. Some of the conditions that can coexist with ADHD include: Conduct Disorder (CD), anxiety disorder, depression, learning disabilities, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and bipolar disorder.
- Be isolated at school and not have a lot of friends;
- Feel different and misunderstood;
- May be labeled naughty, disruptive and disobedient;
- Have low self-esteem;
- Become defiant and aggressive.
The Positives of ADHD
ADHD is often associated with difficulties and challenges, but there are also positive traits associated with it. These are important to keep in mind and can be used to boost your child’s self-esteem:
- Eager to try new things;
Tips for Parents
If you suspect your child has ADHD or they have received a diagnosis, it is important to always make sure that you have your child’s attention before talking to them. I often recommend calling the child by their name, and trying to get eye contact before talking to them or giving them instructions. In addition:
- Keep your sentences clear and short;
- Set clear expectations and rules;
- Put routines in place, this will help with your child poor short term memory;
- Reward your child;
- Help your child to plan ahead for their school work and to be organised;
- Encourage physical activities; and
- Use lots of praise and positive reinforcement.
Treatment for ADHD
Treatment of ADHD doesn’t cure the condition but helps control symptoms; it is usually treating with a combination of approaches:
- behavioural therapy/behavioural modification to help minimise and manage symptoms. Therapy sessions will focus on goals, rules, being consistent, routine, etc;
- social skills building and social problem solving can be done with the child/teenager as well as working on decreasing unwanted behavior and promoting relaxation;
- family therapy;
- medication (this will have to be discussed with your GP, paediatrician or child psychiatrist).
Successful treatment may also include assessing diet and nutrition and working with an occupational therapist.
Of course, treatment will be tailored to your child and family needs.
ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders among Australian children. Having a child with ADHD can be physically and psychologically exhausting as parents may find that they constantly have to repeat things, or that their child never listens.
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and you would like to get some support for your child or yourself, do not hesitate to book an appointment with me and we will discuss your concerns and what treatment plan could be most appropriate.
Meggy Delaunay is a psychologist who primarily works with children, adolescents and young adults. She is a registered Psychologist in Australia, New Zealand and France, and can provide therapy sessions in English and French.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.