Emma is a quiet child. She rarely gets into trouble and is passive socially. Emma’s teachers never say anything about her academics but wonder if she’s as engaged as she needs to be in learning. When you help her with homework, she seems to “space out,” and when you ask her to do chores, she often forgets. Her organizational skills are lacking, and she loses pens, homework, and her favorite toys frequently.
Both Aidan and Emma exhibit signs of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD, also known as ADD, is frequently the reason a child or teen is referred to a psychologist. Teachers may notice that a child has difficulty sitting still, is easily distracted, carelessly completes assignments and/or rarely pays attention in class. The child may be accused of disrupting the class during lessons or is simply labeled as “not trying” in the classroom. While some of the above symptoms are consistent with ADHD, it’s vital to have your child assessed by a psychologist or psychiatrist to be certain.
ADHD symptoms are present in a variety of other mental health domains, and without an assessment, the treatment your child truly needs might never be received. Nonetheless, with an estimated 10% of the population meeting criteria for ADHD, it’s not an unlikely foe. When should you be concerned about your child having ADHD?
Teachers are often one of the first to notice symptoms of ADHD. If a teacher has mentioned that they have noticed your child struggling with inattention, it’s important to consider their concern. However, frequently female children or children without hyperactivity will NOT be identified by their teachers. In fact, it’s possible to struggle with ADHD throughout childhood and adolescence without ever being diagnosed.
In some cases, these individuals are able to develop coping strategies to address their short attention span, scattered organization, and difficulty following through with activities. Others have poor grades and end up with limited options for their education. So, what are some ways to avoid this struggle for your child?
If you are inherently concerned about your child’s attention, it is usually a good indicator that it’s time to seek a formal assessment. However, some degree of inattention is normal in all children. ADHD is rarely diagnosed in toddlers, for example, because scattered attention and a limited ability to concentrate are consistent with normal development for that age. A typical ADHD child with difficulties with both inattention and hyperactivity may have the following symptoms:
· Frequently fails to pay close attention to details. For example, completing an assignment before thoroughly reading the assignment or making careless mistakes on math questions.
· Struggles to pay attention and may appear to not be listening when spoken to directly.
· Partially completes assignments and then forgets about them or has to complete them in a rush at the last minute.
· May perform well under pressure after excessive procrastinating.
· Ability to organize assignments, their room, and their activities is chaotic at best. Frequently lose things and often forget assignments, activities, phone calls, etc. they are supposed to complete.
· May talk excessively, interrupting others in conversation.
· Appear as though it’s nearly impossible for them to sit still and appear “on the go” all the time.
Usually, ADHD symptoms are present prior to age 7, but if your child is exhibiting these difficulties at a later stage, it could be a sign of another mental health problem or the result of a recent head injury. Regardless, initial diagnosis will allow you to determine appropriate interventions for your child. Interventions can include psychotherapy, support groups, medication, exercise, meditation, dietary changes, life/organizational coaching, study skills, and even neurofeedback. Regardless of the interventions used, the sooner your child is diagnosed, the sooner they can be provided with a supportive environment to help them learn to better manage their ADHD symptoms.