What is ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is a behavioral disorder that affects approximately 8-10% of school age kids. Although it is not yes understood why, boys are around three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with the disorder. ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity, impulsive action and difficulty focusing and sitting still. Although these are traits that all children share, kids with ADHD present these symptoms consistently and in multiple settings. ADHD can impair a child's ability to function academically, socially or in their home environment.


With early intervention and proper treatment, kids with ADHD can successfully learn to manage their symptoms and live a normal life. Greater awareness about the disorder means that children are being diagnosed younger and younger, which is ideal. However, teenagers and adults can also benefit from the treatment options at any age.


There is no specific test to diagnose ADHD and doctors must rely on evaluation and patient history to determine its presence. It is helpful if parents keep a careful log of behaviors and patterns before visiting a pediatrician to determine ADHD. Children must display behaviors that are more severe than their peers for 6 months or longer. The behaviors must also occur in at least two separate areas, such as home and school. Additionally, practitioners must take into account outside stressors or life events, such as divorce or a recent move that may complicate the diagnosis.


ADHD is not caused by vaccines or poor parenting. Although there has been no single cause identified to cause ADHD, researchers have concluded that there are biological origins that are not clearly understood. Current studies are exploring genetic and environmental links. Past studies have shown that many kids with ADHD are four times more likely to have a close relative with the disorder as well. Other risk factors involve smoking during pregnancy and premature birth or low birth weight. Certain areas of  the brain in kids with ADHD are 5%-10% smaller in size and activity, although experts are still unsure whether or not this is a cause of the disorder.


ADHD is often diagnosed in conjunction with coexisting conditions, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Anxiety or Learning Disabilities. It is important for parents to have a full evaluation by a specialist when ADHD is suspected in order to catch any of these accompanying conditions for treatment. Although ADHD cannot be officially cured, it can be successfully managed through therapy and treatment. Ideally, a child will be able to learn to recognize when he is being triggered and take steps to normalize his environment.


ADHD is most often treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. A treatment program will involve careful monitoring and adjustments as goals are met. Parental participation is particularly important for successful management of ADHD. Most treatment plans involve a parental education component. Some of the symptoms of ADHD, such a hyperactivity, lessen as a child grows, however, the symptoms involving inattention and organization will remain into adulthood without intervention. Pharmaceuticals such as stimulants, antidepressants or anxiety medications may lessen many of the symptoms of ADHD while a child works on therapy.


Behavioral therapy helps parents and children change behavior patterns. Families learn to implement changes such as creating regular routines, avoiding distractions and using goals and rewards for interaction. Parenting a child with ADHD brings extra challenges, and the usual parenting tactics might need to be adjusted. Yelling, spanking or using time out for bad behavior is often ineffective for children with ADHD. Both parents and children with ADHD must work with therapist to make sure that they can respond appropriately to each other and problem solve in a way that is effective for successful management. Parents also often need support for the stress that is involved with parenting a child with ADHD. 

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