It is quite common for a child to periodically forget to do their homework, become dazed in class, antsy while eating meals, and to act impulsively. However, when all of these things happen more frequently these could all be signs that your child is suffering from attention deficit disorder. This effects the way in which your child learns and copes with others. If you are a parent who is concerned about your child, the initial step is to learn what the signs and symptoms are.
What is ADD/ADHD?
Often children who have not been properly diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are labeled as troublemakers. There are lots of us who have heard of children that will not sit still, do not pay attention in class, and act on impulse. However, the problem is many of them are not troublemakers and are simply suffering from ADD/ADHD. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder usually occurs early on in childhood. This disorder makes it complicated for individuals to control their spontaneous responses.
Normal Childhood Behavior or ADHD
Children who suffer from ADD/ADHD will generally show signs and symptoms before they reach seven years of age. However, for many parents and educators determining the difference between normal behavior and a disorder can be tough. If you notice only a few signs or symptoms on occasion, chances are it is not ADD. However, if your child is experiencing many symptoms in various situations including home and school, you may need to have a deeper look. Once you are able to pinpoint what your child is going through you are better able to help them find solutions.
Primary Characteristics of ADD/ADHD
When most think about ADD, they envision a child that is out of control, always in motion, and disrupting everyone around them. However, that is not the only scenario. There are some children with ADD that are hyperactive, while others are quieter and distant as their attention is somewhere else. There are some that place so much focus on one task that they have difficulties moving on to the next, and there are other children who are only a bit inattentive and seriously impulsive.
“Those of us with ADHD need your support! We are not ‘lazy,’ ‘stubborn,’ ‘willful,’ ‘disruptive,’ ‘impossible,’ ‘tyrannical,’ ‘a space shot,’ ‘brain damaged,’ or ‘stupid.’”
– Dr. Hallowell
There are three primary characteristics of ADD/ADHD: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The signs and symptoms a child will have will depend upon which characteristics stand out the most. For instance, a child can be inattentive but not hyperactive or impulsive. They can be hyperactive and impulsive, but pay attention. Also, children can exhibit all three of the characteristics at the same time.
Those children that are inattentive, but not hyperactive or impulsive are often overlooked as they are not openly disrupting anything. However, there are serious consequences for a child that does not pay attention well, such as getting in trouble for not paying attention to instructions, under-performing, and clashing with other children.
It might be difficult in preschool ages to decipher whether or not your child has ADD/ADHD, because many of the characteristics are common at a young age. However, when a child reaches about four years of age, they should have some control over sitting still, being quiet, and paying attention. So once they have reached about school age, the three characteristics should be watched more closely.
Inattentive Signs of ADD/ADHD
It is important to understand that children with ADD/ADHD lack the ability to pay attention. Reason being because things that are interesting they can pay attention to, it is when things are repetitive and boring that they become displaced. It is very hard for children with ADD/ADHD to stay on track. They generally go from one task to the other without finishing either one. They also have difficulties concentrating when other things are going on around them. Other symptoms of inattentiveness are:
- Failure to pay attention to detail
- Makes careless mistakes
- Easily distracted
- Appears to not listen
- Complications remembering and following instructions
- Difficulties staying organized and finishing projects
- Becomes easily bored
- Frequently loses or misplaces items
Hyperactivity Signs of ADD/ADHD
One of the most obvious signs that your child could be dealing with a disorder is hyperactivity. While children by nature are active, children who suffer from hyperactivity are always trying to move around. Even when told to sit still by an adult, they still struggle to listen. Symptoms of hyperactivity include:
- Constant movement
- Leaving the seat when supposed to sit still
- Runs and climbs on things inappropriately
- Talks constantly
- Trouble playing quietly
- Quick temper
Impulsive Signs of ADD/ADHD
Impulsivity in children with ADD are likely to develop problems with self control. They are known to interrupt conversations, invade others privacy, shout out in the middle of class, and even ask inappropriate questions because they simply do not have the self control that other children would have. Children who have impulsivity issues are more likely to act out on emotion. Symptoms of impulsivity include:
- Acting without thought
- Disruptive in class
- Lacks patience
- Says inappropriate things
- Interrupts others
- Unable to keep emotions in order
So Does My Child Really Have ADD/ADHD?
A child that has symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity does not necessarily have to have ADD/ADHD. There are other medical conditions and psychological disorders that could be the result of their behavior. If you want to have your child properly diagnosed, you will need to meet with a mental health professional. They can rule out other issues such as learning disabilities, traumatic life experiences, psychological disorders, medical conditions, and behavioral disorders.
“For children with sensory disorders, over-stimulation can cause symptoms that mimic those of ADD/ADHD. This can lead to a misdiagnosis.” Source: Twitter – ADHD Answered
Benefits or Positive Effects of ADD/ADHD
While there are a lot of challenges that come with children who have ADD/ADHD, there are some positive traits that can come from this disorder.
- Children who have ADD are more creative and imaginative. They are able to daydream about many different things and come up with great and new ideas.
- Children who have ADD are also known to be more flexible. Since they do not focus in on one thing, their “open mindedness” allows them to consider other options.
- Children who have ADD are enthusiastic and spontaneous. There is never a dull moment in their lives.
- Children who have ADD are also more energetic and driven towards accomplishing goals. This is especially true when the task is something that they enjoy doing.
Assisting a Child with ADD/ADHD
Whether your child has been diagnosed with ADD or simply shows the characteristics, getting treatment is important. Children who are unable to focus and control their actions will ultimately have a very difficult time in school and in life as they get older. These complications lead to lower self esteem and depression. That is why you should not delay in getting your child the treatment they need. The first things to try are talking with a therapist, maintaining a good eating diet and exercise plan, and modifying your home to cut back on the distractions.
Learning new parenting skills and ways to help your child cope with ADD/ADHD is the best thing you can do for them. Providing them with structure, clear communication, consequences and rewards for their behavior is one way to help them through their problems. The sooner you begin adapting and learning how to help your child adapt, the better of they will be. For more information on ADD/ADHD you can visit these resources below:
For more literature on helping your child with ADD/ADHD, consider these books: