Do you see that your child is impatient, impulsive and is easily distracted? Or, that he is unable to continue one task until it is completed?
If you have noticed these tendencies in your child, perhaps they are due to his nature or personality. Or then, perhaps they are not. Maybe he simply can’t help being impatient. Maybe he can’t control his mind when it drifts off his books; and by the time he realizes, 10 minutes have passed.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disturbance wherein one’s internal capacity to control one’s physical activity and regulate attention are hindered. The exact causes of ADHD are not clear, though it has neurological factors and some environmental ones associated with it.
As a result of ADHD, one’s overall control over their behavior weakens. For example, to focus on a task, one needs to be able to filter out all other sounds and sights in the environment. If I have to finish my homework, I need to filter out the view outside my window, the faint sound of music from the other room, and the other thoughts and urges in my own mind. For most of us, this process takes about 5 minutes or so. Once we get started and solve about 2 questions, we can go on for another half an hour or 45 minutes. But for someone with ADHD, this filtering process is very very difficult. As a result, they are unable to control themselves, get easily distracted by things around them, and also by other thoughts in their own mind.
As a syndrome, ADHD is a lot more common today than it was about 15 years ago, both in children and in adults. One reason for this could be that more people are seeking help today due to increased awareness. Or, there are some biological and psychological reasons why ADHD is on the rise in the population.
Why is it Important to identify whether the child has ADHD?
Once ADHD is diagnosed, there exist therapies such as occupational therapy, behavior modification and counseling that can help the child and the parents manage the situation better. On the contrary, if it is undiagnosed, the child can undergo a lot of emotional difficulties before it is recognized that he has ADHD.
This is because, people around him do not recognize that he is having genuine difficulty in remaining seated, or in persevering at a task. As a result, he gets described as ‘naughty’, ‘lazy’, ‘irresponsible’…and somewhere, ‘bad’. The child begins to believe in these descriptions, thinks poorly of himself and loses the will to improve and put in one’s best.
Moreover, ADHD leads to low academic performance because the child is unable to pay attention in class and eventually lags behind. It also interferes with everyday activities at home and school. This could also build up frustration in the child and lead to emotional difficulties such as low self esteem, loneliness and anger outbursts.
These emotional scars are best prevented. Keeping this in mind, it is very important to identify ADHD in time, so that the child can be helped in the right manner.
What are some common signs of ADHD in children?
Restlessness and fidgetiness –
The child may be unable to remain calm and restful. He may constantly fidget and may move about in his seat, or change sitting position frequently.
Physical over activity –
The child may remain active constantly. He might run around, climb on furniture and might not feel tired even after continuous activity.
Impulsivity and ‘acting before thinking’ –
The child may be unable to think of whether the consequences of doing something will be good or bad. Hence, he might be impulsive and sometimes, careless. For example, while playing, he might bang his toys harshly and won’t consider that the toys may break; or that other people will get hurt if the toy runs into them. Similarly, in class, he might talk with other children and won’t consider that the teacher may punish him.
The child may be impatient. He might not be able to delay satisfying his needs or waiting for his turn. If he wants something, he’ll want it ‘now’.
Difficulty with concentration –
The child may be unable to sustain focus. He could be easily distracted, and once distracted, might need repeated reminders to refocus. He could find it difficult to stay on the task until it is complete. If interested in an activity- such as television or playing games, he might be able to sustain focus. However, for most everyday tasks, especially those that are not interesting, he might find it difficult to regulate his attention. As a result, his homework and other assignments might pose a daily challenge.
Being disorganized and absent-minded –
The child could find it difficult to manage time. Tasks could run over into several hours, leaving other tasks undone. He might be messy with respect to his belongings. He might also lose his belongings frequently and might forget instructions given to him at school and at home.
If you notice most of these signs in your child, it is advisable to consult a psychologist and evaluate whether the child has ADHD. At times, symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity might not be present; however, difficulties pertaining to concentration, distractibility and absent-mindedness may be present. These could be due to ‘ADD’, or Attention Deficit Disorder. ADD has greater chances of remaining unaddressed, since it’s symptoms are not as obvious and disruptive as that of ADHD.
Lastly, just as self medication is dangerous, self diagnosis can also prove to be misleading. It can lead to missing out on ADD or ADHD when it is present. On the other hand, it can also lead you to falsely believe that the child has ADHD/ADD when the behaviors are caused by something else. To avoid both of these, consult with a professional, who will guide you accurately and help you shape the child’s future.
Image Credit: Poi Photography
Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan
Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and she conducts Individual Counseling at Inner Space.