Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed neurological disorder in North America. The cause of this disorder is thought to be an imbalance in the brain’s chemical messengers that are responsible for attention, impulsivity, memory, motivation, concentration and alertness. People with ADHD therefore have problems in these and other areas. Generally diagnosed in childhood, ADHD sometimes persists in adulthood. The good news is that better treatment and educational tools mean that more and more people with ADHD can reduce and cope with their symptoms.
Although attention deficits are generally diagnosed when children are in school, symptoms can often start before this stage or during the child’s development. Problems with attention and hyperactivity don’t appear in the same way in a 5-year-old compared to a 10-year-old or a teen. This difference can make diagnosis more complex. To get a proper diagnosis, you need to consult a doctor who has experience with children who have ADHD.
Since a child’s symptoms can be caused by other conditions or problems, a doctor will have to conduct a full physical exam and psychological evaluation before concluding that the child has ADHD.
You should consult a qualified doctor who specializes in ADHD if your child has one or more of the following symptoms (divided into 3 categories) for more than 6 months and if these symptoms detract from his or her normal development in 2 different areas (e.g., at home and at school).
ADHD has a negative impact on children and their development. Children with ADHD have problems at school and a hard time making friends. This is why it’s important to detect and treat attention deficit disorders as early as possible to reduce the risk that the child will have low self-esteem or develop a psychological disorder such as anxiety or depression. These problems can lead to isolation problems, delinquency or addiction.
You should also know that the intellectual potential of these children is no different or lower than that of other children. Children with ADHD are often very creative and can become highly accomplished adults. Because of their knack of moving from one idea to the next, they can tackle problems in a unique way.
ADHD can’t be prevented or cured, but it can be controlled and its impact can be reduced with the right treatment. Since ADHD is often diagnosed once children are in school, parents, teachers and other professionals or people who interact with the child need to participate in the treatment as well. Treatment may include:
A number of non-pharmacological therapies can help control ADHD. It’s important to try to eliminate not only the symptoms of the disorder but also all of its repercussions on the child’s life.
A doctor can refer the child to a psychologist to decrease anxiety, symptoms of depression, and low self-esteem. The psychologist can also help the child develop impulse control and better relationships with others. Special camps for children with ADHD can be a rewarding experience and an opportunity for them to overcome their social discomfort.
A good structure at school can help children overcome the obstacles of ADHD. Daily teacher reports can help parents follow their child’s progress and see if treatment strategies are working. Putting the child at the front of the class can help them concentrate and pay attention.
Note that medication alone is not the key to treating ADHD. Treatment must be combined with medication and psychosocial intervention and treatment.
The medications used most often to treat ADHD are called stimulants . These drugs work directly on the brain’s chemical messengers to increase concentration or reduce impulsivity. Pharmaceutical research on ADHD is constantly ongoing and medication is constantly improving. Many of these drugs are long acting and have the benefit of being effective throughout the day. This means that the child does not have to take a dose at school, and the medication will be out of their system by the time they go to bed.
Below is a list of stimulants currently prescribed for ADHD:
Stimulants are effective for most people, but they do have side effects, such as insomnia, loss of appetite, and weight loss. If these side effects become inconvenient for your child or persist, you should talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Two non-stimulants (guanfacine extended-release and atomoxetine) can replace or be used in combination with stimulants. They have different side effects from stimulants and can therefore be a good option for some people.
ADHD can have consequences on a child’s development and learning. However, with the right resources, you can reduce its impact and help children with this disorder thrive and reach their full potential. Since each treatment must be personalized, don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist.