What Is ADHD?
According to the DSM-IV (2000), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is characterized by a continual pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity. Symptoms occur frequently and are more severe than those typically observed in an individual at a similar developmental level. According to the DSM-IV, ADHD is prevalent in 3% – 7% of school-age children. To receive a diagnosis for this condition, symptoms must be present before the age of seven and must have occurred in at least two different settings. Furthermore, symptoms must significantly impair the individual’s social, academic, or occupational functioning.
What are some symptoms of ADHD?
Symptoms of inattention include: failing to pay attention to details; making careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities; having difficulty in maintaining attention during tasks or activities; appearing as though not listening when someone is speaking to him or her; inconsistently complying with instructions; having difficulty with organization; having difficulty with tasks or activities that require a heightened mental effort; losing items; becoming easily distracted by stimuli in the environment; and forgetfulness (DSM-IV, 2000).
Symptoms of hyperactivity include: fidgeting with hands or feet; squirming while sitting; leaving a seat when the expectation is to be seated; excessively running about or climbing in situations where it is deemed inappropriate; difficulty in quietly engaging in leisurely activities; described as “on the go”; and talking excessively.
Some examples of symptoms of impulsivity include: giving answers before questions have been completed; having difficulty awaiting one’s turn; and interrupting others.
How might I know if my child is in the early stages of developing ADHD?
Since the onset of ADHD symptoms begin before the age of seven, parents, teachers, and other caregivers may observe excessive motor activity when their child is a toddler. It is important to distinguish this motor hyperactivity from the activity of a typical toddler. Typically, a diagnosis of ADHD is made during the elementary years because symptoms may become accentuated when the demands of school are heightened. As the child enters adolescence, the condition usually remains stable. For most individuals, symptoms (especially motor hyperactivity) become less pronounced during late adolescence and adulthood (DSM-IV, 2000).
What can I do to help my child?
Behavioral interventions and/or pharmacological interventions are typically used to treat symptoms of ADHD. Behavioral programs can be developed and individualized according to the individual’s current level of functioning. Goals are then established in order to maximize the individual’s relationship development, performance at school, or work, and home. Goals also include decreasing disruptive behaviors and increasing self-esteem and independence. Stimulant or non-stimulant medication may also be used to facilitate treatment of the symptoms.
Our approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy
We offer a multi-disciplinary team with a neuropsychologist who can help diagnose ADHD and advocate for proper school support. Additionally, we have a team of behavior analysts who can develop individualized interventions to help the child reach his/her full potential in all settings (e.g. home, school, extra-curricular activities). Behavior analysts are available to work in multiple environments so that the child is fully supported. Our occupational therapists will also help the child develop by addressing his/her self-regulation, providing sensory strategies to better cope with changes in his/her environment.