ADD/ADHD in children

All of us remember the children in our class who wouldn’t keep quiet. They were hyper, talkative, couldn’t keep still, were always being reprimanded and were even maybe the class clowns. Some would maybe sit and daydream in class or even have a hard time focusing and concentrating on what was being said.

Back then we either thought them to be nuisances, fun (especially if they gave a teacher you didn’t like a hard time) or just plain disruptive. However, as I got older I began to see and understand that what I saw as a child was not necessarily the fault of the child who we thought was “acting out”, but something that was indeed a problem to them and their families even if undetected or ignored.

ADD/ADHD is defined as “a syndrome, usually diagnosed in childhood, characterized by a persistent pattern of impulsiveness, a short attention span, and sometimes hyperactivity which can interfere especially with academic, occupational, and social performance”. While we can’t label all children that have one or two of these symptoms as either ADD or ADHD, it seems like many exhibit these behaviours and hinder the learning process in the classroom, unintentionally denying themselves and their classmates an uninterrupted learning environment and experience.

As many authors, psychologists and counsellors have said, it is sometimes hard to distinguish this behaviour from the behaviour of an average child. The key would be the intensity, the frequency and the amount of symptoms the child displays. Although there is no cure for it, once properly and professionally diagnosed children can grow up to lead normal lives once given the means by which to do so. The three primary characteristics of ADD/ADHD are:

* Inattentive, but not hyperactive or impulsive.

* Hyperactive and impulsive, but able to pay attention.

* Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive (the most common form of ADD/ADHD).

It is expected when dealing with children, to see inattentiveness and some hyperactivity but impulsive behaviours such as deliberately running into danger or being violent with a classmate is a valid concern and should be brought to the attention of the teacher or parent.

This is where working together comes into play because the home and the school need to partner to get to the bottom of the problem. Too often we as parents see patterns and behaviours displayed in the home yet refuse to ask for help or even share with the child’s class teacher or vice versa.

I want to share some symptoms which are prevalent in ADD/ADHD children. While this is by no means a complete list, it at least gives us a place to start in identifying this growing issue in children.

Symptoms of Inattentiveness:

* Doesn’t pay attention to details.

* Makes careless mistakes.

* Has trouble staying focused and is easily distracted.

* Appears not to listen when spoken to.

* Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions.

* Has trouble staying organised, planning ahead, and finishing projects.

Symptoms of Hyperactivity:

* Constantly fidgets and squirms.

* Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected.

* Moves around constantly and often runs or climbs inappropriately.

* Talks excessively.

* Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing.

* Is always “on the go”, as if driven by a motor.

* May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”.

Symptoms of Impulsiveness:

* Blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called on or hear the whole question.

* Can’t wait for his or her turn in line or in games.

* Says the wrong thing at the wrong time.

* Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums.

* Guesses, rather than taking time to solve a problem.

While all of the above can be seen in a negative light, there are many positive things which I have personally seen in children with ADD/ADHD such as creativity, freedom of expression and great artistic ability. There are also extremely bright individuals who just need to be guided in the right direction to help control, manage and in time conquer their behaviour.

Evaluation is key to getting the child on the right path and the earlier this is done the better for all involved. In extreme cases, some children are placed on medication but change comes about in a variety of ways such as behaviour therapy, parent education and training, social support, and assistance at school.

Even small changes in the home like minimising distractions, changing of the diet and encouraging them to complete tasks and praising them when it is done can make the world of difference.

It is important that we pay attention to our children and watch them with our eyes wide open. Too often we see a problem and pretend it isn’t there or just hope that if we continue to ignore it that it would somehow miraculously go away. That never happens.

Regardless of what we think or feel we owe our children the chance to be the best person they can be so that they thrive in any environment, and once given the help they need, a child with ADD/ADHD will do just that!

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