By Jody Pahlavan, PsyD
Dr. Pahlavan is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical
director of the child and adolescent day treatment and partial
hospitalization services at Rogers Memorial Hospital.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that
is often first noticed during the preschool and early school years. One
of the most common childhood disorders, ADHD affects 5 to 8 percent of
school age children.
What is ADHD?
ADHD symptoms can be categorized into two groups: inattention and
hyperactivity and impulsivity. In early childhood, these behaviors are
common; however, in children with ADHD these behaviors occur more
frequently and are more severe. Some of these characteristics may be:
- Highly distracted
- Losing and forgetting things
- Always on the “go”
- Difficulty sitting still
- Easily bored
- Lack of self-control
- Difficulty waiting for turn/standing in line
- Daydreaming or “zoning out”
These difficulties can be observed in free play settings, but as the
child grows and is required to show focused attention on tasks, such as
school work, the symptoms may be seen more frequently. With ADHD,
hyperactivity/impulsive behaviors are often noticed in early childhood,
while inattentive behaviors become more apparent when a child enters
How is ADHD treated?
While the most recognized method of treating ADHD is through medication,
successful ADHD treatment is multidimensional and includes
evidence-based therapeutic techniques. The two most important elements
of treatment include medication management and behavior therapy.
When first diagnosed there may be a process of trial and observation
to determine the right medication and dosage; however, 70 to 80 percent
of kids have an excellent initial response. The most common medications
prescribed for ADHD are stimulants. While it seems odd, the drugs
stimulate the areas of the brain that are responsible for attention and
impulse control and help a child to focus.
In addition, behavior therapy can be used to address specific
behaviors or teach a child new skills to help him or her manage their
behavior. For example, therapy may include social skills training to
improve communication, interpersonal skills or self-esteem.
Another facet of behavior therapy can include parent-child
interaction therapy (PCIT) which teaches parents how to encourage
desired behaviors and minimize the impulsive or inattentive ones.
As a parent, how can I help ensure
success for my child with ADHD?
Children with ADHD may have a more difficult time during the school year
than children without ADHD. The following are some suggestions for
parents to help the school year go smoothly and successfully:
- Create a routine – a chart or outline of activities and times that your child can see provides familiarity and comfort.
- Stay organized – highlight important things on a calendar or cork board, plan the night ahead by laying out clothes, shoes and backpacks.
- Communicate – with the school and your child’s
teacher. Discuss the diagnosis and ask for the teacher to provide
updates on how your child is doing in the classroom.
- Connect – with your child. Encourage them, teach them to reward themselves, understand their needs and offer support.
If your child’s behavior makes you question if it is ADHD or just a
normal part of growing up, begin by talking to your child’s teacher,
many times they will be the first to notice. A pediatrician is another
option and can even recommend you to a mental health professional that
has expertise in ADHD.
Sources: Child Mind Institute