How to recognise ADHD
Your child is hyperactive and cannot sit still. He or she seems to be doing a hundred things at once, won’t stop talking and keeps interruption people. Or perhaps your child has trouble staying focused and keeps misplacing or forgetting things like his/her keys, coat or school-related items? Why doesn’t your child listen when you tell him or her not to do something? Do you sometimes wonder if your child’s behaviour is within the ‘normal’ range, or if perhaps, it’s characteristic for ADHD ?
This article tells you everything you need to know about ADHD. We explain what ADHD is, talk about the symptoms of this disorder, and how it is diagnosed. We also provide you with information about the various options for treating ADHD.
What does ADHD mean?
ADHD is short for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. A child who has ADHD has an attention dysfunction disorder with hyperactive behaviour.
Being hyperactive and easily distracted doesn’t necessarily indicate ADHD
Lack of concentration and being fidgety doesn’t necessarily mean your child has ADHD. Some characteristics are part of a child’s normal development. A toddler, for example, has more trouble sitting still than a child attending primary school. And it’s normal for children to occasionally have trouble focusing or get fidgety at the dinner table because they’re tired or because of circumstances at home or school. What’s more, symptoms such as hyperactivity and lack of concentration can also be signs of something other than ADHD. For example, gifted children may show behaviours that mimic ADHD. A child with strong academic or cognitive skills who is given tasks that are far too easy will become bored, which may lead to inattention.
How to spot ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD can be divided into three categories:
Inattention can mean a number of things. Depending on the child, his/her personality, level of intelligence and environmental factors (e.g. parenting styles and teachers’ strategies), each child will display certain behaviours to a certain degree sooner or later. Below is a list of signs and symptoms of attention deficit due to ADHD.
- Your child often has difficulty focusing, causing him/her to make careless mistakes in for example homework or tests
- Your child has trouble finishing tasks
- Your child avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Your child doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to
- Your child often doesn’t do what is asked of him/her
- Your child is easily distracted
- Your child has trouble getting organised
- Your child is forgetful
- Your child keeps losing or misplacing things
Children with ADHD have problems with impulsivity and self-control. They tend to act or make hasty decisions without considering the consequences. Examples of impulsive behaviour are:
- Not being able to wait for a turn
- Leaving their seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
- Climbing on things, with little or no sense of danger
- Intruding on other people’s conversations or activities
- Blurting out answers in class without hearing the whole question
Hyperactive behaviour can manifest itself in different ways:
- Constantly fidgeting and squirming
- Always being ‘on the go’ as if driven by a motor
- Not being able to sit still
- Non-stop talking
- Trouble doing quiet tasks or relaxing activities
Does my child have ADD?
If your child only has inattentive symptoms and doesn’t show impulsive or hyperactive behaviour, he or she could possibly have the inattentive type of ADHD: ADD. Children with ADD are often overlooked because they’re not disruptive, but dreamy, withdrawn and passive.
In order to consider whether your child might have ADHD and reading this information confirms your feeling, we advise that you have your child tested. The only way to tell as to whether or not your child has ADHD is through a professional diagnosis. However, you should be aware that there is no single test that can prove ADHD beyond the shadow of a doubt. The best possible method of diagnosing it properly involves a combination of different tests.
The first step:
see your GP
The first step is to see your GP. Your GP will talk to you and your child to get an idea of how he or she interacts with other children and functions at school and at home. It’s possible that your GP will contact your school’s remedial teacher or doctor. You can also have your child tested via a youth care office, but these offices usually have waiting lists.
When after these interviews your GP suspects that your child might have ADHD, a psychological examination is carried out. This test is conducted by a psychiatrist, psychologist or remedial educationalist. To diagnose ADHD, they will rely on:
- Questionnaires (for your child, parent and your child’s teacher)
- School visits to observe your child
The so-called quantitative electro-encephalogram (QEEG) may be carried out to supplement earlier tests. The QEEG is a simple brain wave test with approximately 90% accuracy.
Based on the results of the above tests, your GP, the child psychiatrist, psychologist or health clinic doctor will determine whether or not your child has ADHD. The diagnosis will include an analysis of the severity of the disorder, and the effects ADHD has on your child’s development and the situation at home and at school.
My child has ADHD What happens now?
Children diagnosed with ADHD, will have a tailored treatment plan drawn up durning your doctors consultation. There’s no single approach that is right for every child. Each child and each condition are unique.
The treatment plan can consist of the following components:
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- Patient/parent education
- Bringing structure to your child’s life
- Good nutrition
- Therapy, for example behavioural therapy or family counselling
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Last updated on October 12, 2016.