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How Do I Know if My Child Has ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is a condition that affects many children: it is estimated that as many as 5 percent of children in America suffer to some degree from an attention deficit disorder.

The causes of ADHD are not entirely known, but experts believe that one likely contributing factor is abnormal neurotransmitters (certain chemicals in the brain). There is also strong evidence of a genetic component in the development of attention deficit disorders.

Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD is notoriously hard to diagnose in part because its symptoms can have many other causes. However, if your child has exhibited most or all of these symptoms for at least six months, and if their symptoms are significantly affecting their performance at school or behavior at home, you should speak to your doctor or pediatrician about a possible diagnosis of ADHD:

  • Extreme inattentiveness, trouble concentrating
  • Inability to focus on only one task at a time; starting projects but not finishing them
  • Highly impulsive behavior
  • Hyperactivity, seemingly excessive excitability (talking a lot, inability to sit still, needing to run around frequently)

Finding ADHD Help

Being the parent of a child with an attention disorder can be overwhelming and exhausting at times, but your best strategy is to be well informed and well supported, and these resources can get you started:

National Institute of Mental Health: Downloadable pamphlet providing detailed information on AD/HD.

Center for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC): Listings by province/territory of ADHD support groups.

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): Directory by U.S. state of CHADD chapters, which can provide services such as helping you find a local ADHD support group.

In addition to the symptoms above, if your child has ADHD they may exhibit other social, emotional or even physical signs, such as:

  • Violent and/or aggressive behavior. Your child may be acting out in response to the frustration their ADHD symptoms cause them, going so far as to become a bully with classmates or siblings.
  • Inappropriate behavior in the classroom. Children with attention deficit disorders are often accused of not listening or not paying attention at school, or, especially in cases of ADHD, where hyperactivity is acutely present, of being disruptive and interfering with lessons and the learning of others. They may also act out in the role of class clown as a way of coping with their symptoms.
  • Low self-esteem. Lack of approval and other difficulties at school or home can lead your child to begin to think poorly of themselves and their abilities.
  • Stomachaches, headaches, pain in the back or extremities. Like the symptoms of depression, the negative feelings your child might experience as a result of dealing with their ADHD symptoms can manifest themselves in physical ailments.

Although ADHD symptoms may interfere with your child’s ability to participate in and benefit from a traditional classroom setting, ADHD is not a type of learning disability. However, some children do suffer from both ADHD and a learning disability.

ADHD and Diet

Scientific studies have repeatedly found no link between sugar consumption and the development of ADHD. However, there has been some concern that, while they don’t cause ADHD, certain other food substances, including caffeine, dyes and preservatives, may increase existing hyperactivity.

Treatment of ADHD

Treating ADHD usually consists of prescription medication(s), psychological counseling for your child — and possibly counseling for your entire family, as well — or a combination of the two therapies. These methods have been proven to help with ADHD management, but your child’s particular treatment plan should be personalized to fit the nature and severity of their symptoms, and, if needed, modified according to how they respond to treatment.

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