Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurological conditions that affects between 3 to 6 percent of school-aged children. Children with this condition exhibit significant issues with their ability to pay attention to tasks, inhibit their impulses and/or regulate their behavior. In order for the diagnosis to be made, one has to witness significant impairment in regards to attentional regulation and/or activity level within multiple settings. This means that the child must exhibit the concerns within the home, school, after-school program, sports team, etc. In reality, the diagnosis can be made by a pediatrician or health care provider that is able to ascertain levels of functioning in the various domains by observing behavior or collecting parent and teacher report forms.
In the Neuropsychology Department at North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we focus on a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s functioning, including cognitive functioning, academic achievement, attentional regulation, executive functioning and social/emotional functioning. Now, if the diagnosis can be made by a parent and teacher report, one must ask why a comprehensive evaluation should be mandated. The answer to this is that over 45% of children that have been diagnosed with ADHD meet clinical criteria for multiple neurodevelopmental conditions. Children with ADHD often present learning disabilities, emotional concerns and deficits with social regulation. Sole treatment of the inattention may improve attentional regulation; however, there are other unaddressed concerns that may still linger.
Research has continuously demonstrated that the most common treatment of ADHD is a combination of pharmacological intervention, behavioral therapy, parent training, and teacher education. Pharmacological intervention consists of stimulant medications that help to improve the child’s ability to attend to tasks. A recent research article, which was even reported in an October edition of the Chicago Tribune, indicated that the majority of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD and are prescribed medication report significant improvement within their daily lives. In the past, the main identification of improvement within children with ADHD was based upon teacher report. Parents can now feel comfortable when asking their child if medication is helping. Behavior therapy focuses on the modification of the child’s environment to improve the frequency and duration of positive, on-task behaviors while extinguishing negative behaviors. Parent and teacher education has a primary intent on discussing expectations within the home and school settings as well as possible modifications to ensure success.