What is ADHD?

Helping a Child with ADHD

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You've probably heard a few things about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but what you might not know are the true, solid facts.

ADHD, also referred to as attention deficit disorder (ADD), is one of the most common health disorders in children.  The disorder affects 5 to 10 percent of all children in the United States, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. ADHD can affect the areas of the brain that allow your child to solve problems, plan ahead, understand other people's actions and control their impulses.


ADHD Symptoms

Just because your child exhibits some of the symptoms of ADHD does not mean that he has the disorder. Almost every child has problems following directions, staying focused, and acting impulsively; however, children with ADHD exhibit these behaviors more often and more severely than other kids. In children, there are three subtypes of ADHD, each one with its own pattern of symptoms and behaviors. Below is a closer look:

  • Inattentive Type: Children with this subtype of ADHD lack concentration abilities, but they rarely act hyperactive or impulsive. They may look like they're listening because they sit quietly in class and appear to be working on assignments, but they're really not focusing. Symptoms include:
        • Tendency to make careless errors
        • Inability to pay attention
        • Listening problems
        • Organization issues
        • Difficulty with following directions
        • Often losing things like toys, homework, etc.
        • Forgetful
  • Hyper-Impulsive Type: Children with this subtype of ADHD say things or act out without thinking first. They may also display emotions without using any self-control. Additional symptoms include:
        • Frequent fidgeting and squirming
        • Inability to stay seated
        • Excessive amounts of energy
        • Blurting out answers before hearing the full question
        • Difficulty staying patient, i.e. waiting in line or for their turn
        • Constantly interrupting others
        • Inability to play quietly
    • Combined Type (Inattentive/Hyperactive/Impulsive): This is the most common form of ADHD, and children with this subtype experience a combination of symptoms from the other two types.

Related:  Does My Child Have a Learning Disorder?

Many children are easily distracted and exhibit some of the symptoms listed above, so don't panic. In order to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, your child must exhibit these behaviors before he turns seven years of age, and the symptoms must continue for at least six months. Also, the symptoms have to result in real issues in at least two areas of your child's life; the classroom, at home, in social settings, and on the playground. If your child's symptoms fit within these guidelines, then you may want to talk to your pediatrician.

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