When Your Child Has ADHD

Posted: July 29, 2011

While many children are inherently mischievous, for some it may indicate a behavioural problem called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

When 7 year old Rishabh’s mother was called to school to meet the class teacher and the special educator, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was not on her mind. “I did know that he was naughty, perhaps a little more than the others, but I did not expect to be asked to get an evaluation done by a child development professional”, says Rishabh’s mother, Ratna Sharma.

Forgetting instructions, daydreaming in class, acting impulsively and constant fidgeting were something that Ratna was used to with Rishabh ever since she could remember. “I would tell him to do something and a little later, he would completely blank out what he had been told and get involved in something completely different. It was impossible to get him to focus on one task; he would lose interest within a few minutes and turn to something else.”

This distractibility and inability to concentrate was leading to trouble at school and low performance and grades as well as affecting his ability to connect with his peers. On getting an evaluation done, Ratna found out that Rishabh had ADHD and he wasn’t just another naughty kid. Now she says, “I wish I had known what I needed to watch out for and that the school had picked it up earlier. I could have worked with him sooner.”

What are the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Kindergarteners have usually learnt to follow instructions, pay attention and sit quietly when asked to. They also begin to learn discretion, i.e. not to say the first thing that comes to their minds. But children with ADHD are easily distracted and impulsive, regularly fail to pay attention to directions, consistently underperform in school and are unable to play with their peers due to their inability to follow rules.

…children with ADHD are easily distracted and impulsive, regularly fail to pay attention to directions, consistently underperform in school and are unable to play with their peers due to their inability to follow rules.

Broadly speaking, children with ADHD can be categorised into three main types. The first involves children who are constantly talking and extremely frisky. To an onlooker, it may seem as if they are in constant motion; they cannot sit still. If they are forced to, they might tap their feet, drum their fingers or fidget and look around. Sitting in class is extremely difficult and they tend to run around even if instructed not to. They might be high-strung and constantly angry.

Such children don’t think before they speak or act and tend to interrupt conversations, blurt out inappropriate things, ask personal or irrelevant questions and make blunt remarks. The child might be moody and over-react. They may blurt out answers in class without waiting to hear the entire question, won’t wait for their turn at play, have temper tantrums and outbursts and most importantly, do not take time to solve a problem, making guesses instead. Thus they might be perceived as rude, disrespectful or weird.

Another category is children who are quiet and lost in their own world, which might make them appear unmotivated. But, as they are peaceful and not difficult to handle, they generally get ignored. The third type would be a mix of the above two.

Other symptoms include lack of attention to detail, often making careless mistakes, finding it difficult to stay organized, plan and finish school projects as well as constantly misplacing or losing books, toys and other personal items.

How can you be sure it is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Clearly it is difficult for a lay person to distinguish between ADHD and regular mischievous kid behaviour. One needs to check whether the symptoms are present across all situations at school, home and play.

These symptoms alone don’t necessarily mean that a child has ADHD. A child can show similar symptoms if she has certain medical conditions such as neurological conditions, sleep disorders or epilepsy, psychological disorders or has been through stressful life events.

Therefore, ensure that you go to a good professional to get a diagnosis done if you suspect your child has ADHD. ADHD often continues into adulthood, so don’t wait for your child to outgrow the problem. Treatment can help you and your child learn to manage and minimize the symptoms.

What to do if your child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Children with ADHD may be frustrated and have low self-esteem. For Indian moms, it may take a lot of energy and patience to connect with him. The constant monitoring is frustrating and exhausting for many. Sometimes it feels like your child is running the show. There might be friction and stress for the whole family. But there are steps you can take to regain control of the situation while simultaneously helping your child make the most of her abilities.

Firstly, don’t blame yourself – ADHD is not caused by bad parenting. It is important to realise that children with ADHD are not disobedient on purpose.

There are many things parents can do to manage ADHD without sacrificing the natural energy, playfulness and sense of wonder unique in children. Firstly, don’t blame yourself – ADHD is not caused by bad parenting. It is important for Indian moms to realise that children with ADHD are not disobedient on purpose. They are often able to concentrate on activities they enjoy. But no matter how hard they try, they have trouble maintaining focus when the task at hand is boring or repetitive.

Medication is often prescribed but it might not be the best or only option for your child. Effective treatment should also include education, behaviour therapy, support at home and school, exercise and proper nutrition. A quiet environment to focus on school work or any task that needs concentration is essential.

A school setting requires the very things that a child with ADHD has a hard time doing – not because they aren’t willing, but because their brains just won’t let them. But that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed at school. Both parents and teachers can do their part to help children with ADHD thrive. Start with evaluating each child’s individual weaknesses and strengths, then come up with creative strategies for helping the child stay focused on a task and learn to his full capability.

On the brighter side, remember that ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence or talent. Children with ADHD are known to be highly imaginative and intellectually or artistically gifted.

  • Flexibility – Because children with ADHD consider a lot of options at once, they don’t become set on one alternative early on and are more open to different ideas.
  • Enthusiasm and spontaneity – Children with ADHD are rarely boring! They’re interested in a lot of different things and have lively personalities. In short, if they’re not exasperating you (and sometimes even when they are), they’re a lot of fun to be with.
  • Energy and drive – When kids with ADHD are motivated, they work or play hard and strive to succeed. It actually may be difficult to distract them from a task that interests them, especially if the activity is interactive or hands-on.

Children with ADHD have multiple interests and also the energy and drive to pursue them all, if channelled properly. They do need more structure, consistency, clear communication and rewards/ consequences for their behaviour. And of course, like every child, they also need lots of love and encouragement!

Popular mommy blogger and Author of The Reluctant Detective.

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