You may have noticed that your child’s grades are inconsistent, and after the usual nightly conflict, his homework is only partially done. Everyone is frustrated and you’re convinced he’s lazy and not meeting his full potential.
This scenario is common of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, one of the most common childhood behavioral disorders, affecting the lives of nearly eight percent of school-age children and many adults. It is not a result of poor parenting, divorce or other environmental factors.
The disorder is constantly being studied and has been speculated to be a form of illness of the nervous system.
Research shows that there is some genetic predisposition, as ADHD tends to run in families.
The core symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, but not all children display all of the symptoms or to the same degree.
Boys, particularly, have more of the hyperactive, impulsive symptoms of ADHD. They may: interrupt, frequently call out, act without thinking, be constantly on the go, be easily frustrated, be uncooperative, not finish what they start, be disorganized, have some temper outbursts due to their unpredictable behavior, and at times, be quarrelsome.
Girls frequently have inattentive symptoms. Since they have fewer behavioral difficulties, they tend to be less recognized as a child with ADHD. Girls may: daydream and appear not to listen, be more forgetful, not meet their potential, forget homework, not follow through with tasks in a timely manner, and, at times, procrastinate or avoid tasks that require sustained mental effort.
Only medical doctors can diagnose and prescribe medication for your child. Clinicians and educators can help you find a doctor to do so. A comprehensive evaluation must consider the child’s difficulties, prior history of treatment, medical history, academic history, family history, environment and temperament. It is also important to note the child’s strengths and how he deals with his difficulties. Once the physician has completed the evaluation, he is better prepared to discuss with the family an individualized treatment plan.
Effective treatment may require medical, psychological and educational initiatives. It may involve a team of professionals, such as your child’s teacher, a therapist, a physician and possibly others.
Some medications used to treat ADHD include: Strattera, Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine, Focalin — and the newest medication, which has just been FDA approved, Vyvanse.
Many risks associated with medications can be lessened by proper monitoring. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of your child taking medication with your doctor. It is equally important to discuss the risks of your child not being treated.
If a child is not treated for ADHD, he may have continued behavioral difficulties, be rejected by peers, have poor self-esteem, fail academically, and take dangerous risks.
Teenagers may dropout of high school and have trouble furthering their education or attending college.
There is also more risk of car accidents, teenage pregnancy and criminal activity due to impulsive behaviors — and poor quality of life when risky behaviors involve drugs or alcohol.
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On a final note, it has been my experience over the last 15 years that many children and adolescents who suffer and struggle with ADHD are pleased and relieved to finally be receiving the help that they needed in order to reach their full potential in every area of their lives.
For more information, contact Dr. Marie Surpris, a child and adolescent psychiatrist [148 Nichols Road in Nesconset, NY, (631) 467-0867]. Or visit www.drmari
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