We’ll start with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD. We have all heard different ideas and rumors about ADHD; this post aims to provide some clarification!
ADHD is a condition that affects both children and adults; however, the focus of this blog will be on ADHD in school-aged children. Roughly one in thirty children who are of school age are affected by ADHD (that’s 3%). ADHD is more common in males than females, with a ratio of approximately 2:1 in children. Females are more likely than males to present primarily with inattentive features (DSM 5).
So, what exactly is ADHD? Most people can easily identify some characteristics of ADHD, such as high-energy, high impulsivity, difficulty focusing, and difficulty sustaining attention to task. However, it is important to distinguish between three different types of ADHD (DSM 5), which can look very different from one another:
- ADHD - Inattentive Type;
- ADHD – Hyperactive / Impulsive Type; and
- ADHD - Combined Type.
ADHD - Inattentive Type
The prominent feature of this type of ADHD is inattention. Children with difficulty focusing often have difficulty paying close attention to details, sustaining attention in tasks or even play activities, following through on instructions, and remembering daily activities (think: chores and routines, taking out the garbage, hanging up your coat, etc.). Additionally, children with this type of ADHD may seem as if they are not listening, even when spoken to directly, and they are often disorganized and avoidant or reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (homework, school work, etc.). Though unfocused, these children may often fly under the radar because behavior is not always an issue. In other words, these children can be quiet and thoughtful and don’t necessarily stand out, behaviorally. ADHD, Inattentive Type is usually more prevalent in girls than boys (DSM V).
ADHD - Hyperactive/ Impulsive Type
Children with this presentation of ADHD are usually easily identified by their impulsive and hyperactive behavior. They are often “on the go,” and may fidget, squirm in their seat, tap their pencils, be out of their seat during inappropriate times, talk excessively, blurt out answers before a question is completed, have difficulty waiting their turn, and are interrupt others. It is important to note, however, that children with this type of ADHD are able to focus and attend, follow through on directions, and may often surprise you with their knowledge and understanding of what’s going on. They can often successfully absorb and retain information despite their hyperactivity and impulsivity (DSM 5).
ADHD - Combined Type
As the name reflects, children with this ADHD, Combined Type have difficulty with both inattentiveness and hyperactivity / impulsivity. Their presentation involves aspects each type, as described.
All children at some point are unfocused, impulsive, and hyperactive. “So wait,” you might think to yourself, “wouldn’t many kids meet the criteria for ADHD, because inattentiveness and hyperactivity / impulsivity are part of being a kid?” You’re right – It is developmentally appropriate, especially for younger school-aged children, but even for older children and adults, to experience bouts of inattentiveness and hyperactivity/impulsivity from time to time. What’s different for children and adults who meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD is that these individuals exhibit these symptoms more consistently, to a greater degree, across multiple settings (DSM 5; Hasan, 2014). Keep in mind that to be diagnosed with ADHD, children need to be evaluated by a doctor such as their primary care physicians or a referring psychiatrist, or a mental health specialist such as a licensed clinical social worker or a licensed psychologist.
ADHD can affect anyone. There is no known cause of ADHD; however, research indicates that factors such as genetics, an imbalance in brain chemicals, changes of the brain, prenatal care, exposure to lead toxins at an early age, and brain injury/disorder could contribute to the development of ADHD (Bhandari, 2015).
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, rest assured that people with ADHD do live successful and happy lives and can benefit from various courses of treatment! Consider individuals such as Albert Einstein, Mozart, Winston Churchill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many others who were recognized as having ADHD and came to find great success in their lives.
Research indicates that the most effective treatments for children with ADHD include a combination of medical, psycho-educational, and therapeutic interventions. Medications can help to control hyperactive and impulsive behavior as well as increase attention span, allowing improved engagement in the process of learning, and have been demonstrated to have longer-term effectiveness when combined with behavioral therapy than when used in isolation from skill-building and behavior management approaches. Behavior therapy for ADHD aims to teach children strategies for improving their self-monitoring and behavioral regulation skills, which can lead to increased productivity at school and home (NIMH, 2013) and has also been demonstrated to lead to other positive outcomes for children with ADHD (Bhandari, 2015). Additional interventions include diet alterations, increasing exercise, regulating sleep among several others (please refer to our upcoming blog post on non-medical school-based interventions for students with ADHD). Additional resources on supporting children with ADHD can be found on our website’s ADHD-Related Behavior page.
Thank you for taking the time to view this post. We sincerely hope it was helpful to anyone seeking clarifying information on ADHD! Please feel free to leave feedback; our goal is to provide information that’s relevant and useful to your work with the children and families of SCSD!
Hasan, S. (2014). What is ADHD?. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/learning/adhd.html#
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2013). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (easy-to-read). Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-easy-to-read/index.shtml
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.