Signs of ADHD in kids
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorder. Adults can have the disorder, but most cases of ADHD are reported in children. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that awareness grew around the condition, and today, the American Psychiatric Association reports that as many as 5% of American children have ADHD.
Are you concerned that your child could be dealing with an undiagnosed case of ADHD? More than 6 million kids in America have been diagnosed, and while the condition certainly won’t impair their ability to thrive, there are some things you should know about the disorder. The more knowledgeable you are about how to spot and treat ADHD in your child, the better chance they have of succeeding at school and in their interpersonal relationships.
ADHD symptoms in kids
What’s difficult about diagnosing someone with ADHD is that there’s no set test to determine if your child has the disorder. Doctors use a multi-step process to decide whether or not someone is dealing with ADHD. That being said, there are common signs of ADHD in kids. It bears saying that if you suspect your child has ADHD, you should speak with a medical professional.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that health professionals look to see if your child has a history of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity when they diagnose ADHD.
Does your kid have a hard time listening at school? When you ask them to do their homework, is it really challenging for your child to complete their assigned tasks? If your child seems to have trouble when it comes to organizational or listening skills, and is either forgetful or easily distracted, they might be showing signs of ADHD.
Hyperactivity and impulsivity
It’s normal for small children to have lots of energy, but if you notice that your child has unusually high energy for months at a time, they might be dealing with ADHD. Some signs of a hyperactive or unusually impulsive child include excessive fidgeting or an inability to sit still, difficulty when it comes to waiting quietly or taking turns and speaking for long stretches of time without stopping.
It’s important to note that while ADHD in kids is common, you need to look at whether or not these symptoms are present in every part of your child’s life. Are they fidgeting and having trouble paying attention only while at school? Or are they exhibiting this same restless energy at school, on playdates and even at home when they should be relaxed with family? This can help you determine if they’re having an issue in one setting, like school, or are dealing with a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects every area of their life, such as ADHD.
How to treat children with ADHD
It’s imperative you help your child deal with ADHD, but you also have to recognize that different kids respond to different types of treatment. Speak with a medical professional to determine what course of action Is right for your child. If you suspect one method isn’t working after trying it for a while, don’t be afraid to explore another approach. Here are a few ways to safely treat ADHD in kids:
Behavioral therapy is typically the first thing a professional will recommend you try with your kid. The premise is simple: Parents implement new structure in a child’s life, and then reward the child when they display positive behavior as a result. If negative behavior persists, provide fair and consistent discipline. Behavioral therapy for kids dealing with ADHD usually consists of things like establishing more structure around the house or giving your child more responsibility over certain tasks (like getting themselves dressed for school each day). If your kid is able to get dressed in a timely manner without getting distracted, you praise them. If they continue to get sidetracked and hang out in their PJs, you use age-appropriate disciplinary strategies.
Collecting neurofeedback on your child can help them learn how to concentrate more fully. To do this, a health professional places electroencephalograph (EEG) sensors on the outside of your child’s head, and the machine connected to the EEG sensors monitors the brain for activity. Your child will be prompted to complete an activity, often in the form of a game, in which their brain activity serves as controls. For example, if the activity were to navigate a car through obstacles, the EEG sensors would pick up your child’s brain waves, causing movement on the screen, such as the car moving down a road or over a bridge. The results can help to show your kid what true concentration feels like, and can help your medical professional notice any patterns in your child’s attention span.
Your mood and overall mental health is greatly affected by your diet, and the same is true for your kids! The first step is examining what your kid’s currently eating; you want to reduce processed foods and too many sugary items. Opt instead for protein-rich foods, which can help the brain to create neurotransmitters, or helpful chemicals that increase the brain cells’ ability to properly communicate and function. If you have a picky eater on your hands, try to stick to real foods when possible, but you can also try supplements such as magnesium and iron, which can help to rein in some of the symptoms of ADHD in kids.
Although it’s worth trying other treatment methods, sometimes medication is necessary to treat ADHD in kids. Speak with a doctor about starting your child on a low dosage of an ADHD medication if you find that other treatments aren’t working. There’s no blanket medication or dosage routine, meaning you’ll need to make sure your kid’s medication is tailored to suit their needs. The process can involve a few rounds of trial and error, but if regularly ensuring your child takes their medication means they have an easier time focusing and listening, it could be worth it.
Helping your child to overcome ADHD and thrive can be challenging, but it is doable. Make sure you consult a medical professional after noticing symptoms of ADHD, and try to use natural treatments like behavioral therapy and dietary changes when possible before opting for a more severe treatment such as medication. Seeking help for your child is the best thing you can do to put their life, and yours, in a beautiful state.
The information and other content provided in this article, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. See full disclaimer.
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