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My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was seven. Since then, I have learnt as much as I could about it. Here's what I've learnt.
My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was seven. Since then, I have learnt as much as I could about it. Here’s what I’ve learnt.
One of the youngest in his class, my son, Akshat, has great learning and logical abilities. He has won Cyber Olympiads at school level five years in a row, led school in digital and science competitions and won some more medals.
Then there was some pattern in his behaviour visible during the second and third grades. We consulted a child psychologist, and he was diagnosed with mild ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.
Knowing the exact problem helps to solve it better. There is a lack of proper awareness about this condition, so here I am sharing what I have learnt so far about this disorder.
The cues to figure out whether your child has ADHD are usually visible by the age of five to seven years. They may show some of these symptoms, if not all –
ADHD doesn’t usually happen in adults – it is often undiagnosed or goes untreated. Adults who have ADHD are usually the ones who have had it as kids.
If not diagnosed at an earlier age, few symptoms may appear in adolescence or adulthood. They may have difficulty managing their thoughts, emotions, memory, motivation, and attention. It affects social behaviour, not logical and aptitude abilities. There is no correlation between this condition and intelligence.
Dr Praveen Suman* says that 40 percent of the cases are due to Genetic Pre-Disposition and low birth weight. However, it can also be a neural disorder particular to a child. Early education, pollution such as lead exposure as a child can be some of the enhancing factors.
One research says that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition due to the deficiency of a specific neurotransmitter — in this case, norepinephrine.
ADHD develops when the brain and central nervous system suffer impairments related to the growth and development of the brain’s executive functions. Functions like attention, working memory, planning, organizing, forethought, and impulse control are affected in this condition. Thus, further affection family and social life
ADHD is treatable, but not completely curable. For preschool-aged children (4-5 years of age) with ADHD, behavior therapy, particularly training for parents, is recommended.
According to Dr Praveen Suman, what works best can depend on the child and family. Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups, and making changes, if needed, along the way. A combination of behaviour therapy and medication may follow as per the case.
As a parent we need to involve them in healthy, positive and creative activities of kid’s choice. My son was involved in various activities like Origami, electronic games, skating, football, archery, drawing (his car design won the Indian event of Chevrolet), reading and writing. People around him need lot of patience.
As suggested by his psychologist Dr Imraan Noorani at Child Development Clinic, New Delhi, reward system for regular motivation works for him. We try to keep him in group activities to improve interactions. The school counsellor also helped to understand and coordinate the activities and behavior at school.
Earlier the diagnosis, the better the results. Some adults have ADHD but may have never been diagnosed. The symptoms can cause difficulty at work, at home, or with relationships. In India due to lack of awareness, and also social taboos, most of the cases remain undiagnosed.
To understand the condition better, I called Dr Praveen Suman and asked him all the questions that I had. Here are some of them
I wondered if ADHD was completely curable, to which, he said, “This is not a disease, but a condition which can be managed with early intervention. Earlier the diagnosis – around five years of age, when the child’s brain is developing – better the results. Intervention at this age can easily make big difference to treat this disorder. It can minimise the difficulties in social behavior.”
As for the treatments, this is what the doctor had to say, “We need to understand the child’s requirements. First, we need to accept, not avoid ADHD. Every affected person gets a different line of treatment, according to his/her needs. There may be only counselling, or medication or both. Very good treatments are available. We may need to consult doctor at different stages of life to minimise problems generated due to this disorder. Treatments change with a change in behavior in the person.”
While treatments are necessary, I also wondered what I should, as a parent do. He suggested that parents should consult a doctor if they recognise any difficulties or patterns of behaviour at school or in academic settings. Parents need to focus on the child’s positive aspects, this helps motivate both the parents and the child.
These behavioural patterns may differ between girls and boys. A number of doctors have observed that boys usually are more hyperactive while girls tend to be inattentive – they daydream or lose focus more. However, there are some tests to diagnose or pinpoint the exact type of disorder.
Society will obviously intervene when it comes to a child with a disorder. So how does the family deal with society? “We need not to be ashamed of it. If undiagnosed, the person may face difficulty in settling with job, marriage and social dysfunction.
“We need to spread awareness in the society as we still have stigma about visiting a doctor for mental health issues. As a parent we may talk about it to the people who can understand the family and be helpful,” Dr Praveen told me.
*Dr Praveen Suman is Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician, Director Child Development Clinic, Senior Consultant Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie English Vinglish
Editor’s Note: The image used in the article is purely for representational purposes and does not imply that the people in the image in any way have the disorder.
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