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What is ADHD?

1 in 10 children may be diagnosed with it. How is it recognized and treated?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder that affects children and adults. Reports show that ADHD affects anywhere from 5%-8% of school-age kids, however, the Center for Disease Control reports the affected number of children to be closer to 11%.

What Causes ADHD?

Despite the fact that ADHD is one of the most researched areas of child and adolescent mental health, the precise cause of the disorder is still unknown.

Some evidence points to ADHD being passed along through genetics, while other research suggests neurotransmitter balances being the culprit behind the disorder.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

The symptoms of ADHD vary from case to case, but doctors have identified three categories of symptoms that can help determine a detailed diagnosis:

Inattention:

  • Short attention span for age (difficulty sustaining attention)
  • Difficulty listening to others
  • Difficulty attending to details
  • Easily distracted
  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor organizational skills for age
  • Poor study skills for age

Impulsivity:

  • Often interrupts others
  • Has difficulty waiting for his or her turn in school and/or social games
  • Tends to blurt out answers instead of waiting to be called upon
  • Takes frequent risks, and often without thinking before acting

Hyperactivity:

  • Seems to be in constant motion; runs or climbs, at times with no apparent goal except motion
  • Has difficulty remaining in his/her seat even when it is expected
  • Fidgets with hands or squirms when in his or her seat; fidgeting excessively
  • Talks excessively
  • Has difficulty engaging in quiet activities
  • Loses or forgets things repeatedly and often
  • Inability to stay on task; shifts from one task to another without bringing any to completion

The three major types of ADHD include:

  • ADHD, combined type. This, the most common type of ADHD, is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behaviors as well as inattention and distractibility.
  • ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive type. This, the least common type of ADHD, is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behaviors without inattention and distractibility.
  • ADHD, inattentive and distractible type. This type of ADHD is characterized predominately by inattention and distractibility without hyperactivity.

What are my child’s treatment options for ADHD?

Treatment for ADHD varies based on your child’s age, health, diagnosis, and medical history.

One of the most popular and effective methods of treating ADHD involves the use of psychostimulants to increase focus and reduce the most inhibiting symptoms of the disorder. These medications have been used to treat childhood behavioral disorders for almost a century and have been widely studied for their safety and effectiveness.

Parental support, counseling, and family education can also play positive roles in the treatment process, but the ideal treatment approach should include a physical release too.

Treating ADHD children with activity and exercise

Research has shown that exercise and organized sports help ADHD kids improve lack of focus, impulsivity, and social skills. After all, health experts recommend that kids get at least 60 minutes of moderate to intense exercise every day to stay active and burn off extra steam.

It is important for parents to encourage their kids to find an activity or sport like bike riding, swimming, soccer, dancing, etc. that they can endure for at least 60 minutes each day. Bonus points for any parents who find activities that they can perform with their children on a regular basis!

The more active you are as a parent, the more likely your children will be to stay active too.

Exercise makes up just one component of a comprehensive treatment plan for ADHD. Contact your pediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist today to discover the best way to treat your child.

Karen K. Meyer, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest

Dr. Meyer answers your questions about child development and parenting. Dr. Meyer decided to become a doctor when she was in school and learned about the body's systems and the miracle of how they all work together. She likes talking to children and helping them feel better. Dr. Meyer believes that children are not little adults and they need to be treated in a way that will help them understand why they aren't feeling well and what they can do to get better. She also works to build tru ...

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