What Is It?
Does your child find it hard to focus? Kids with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are fidgety and easily distracted. This makes it tough to stay “on task,” whether it’s listening to a teacher or finishing a chore.
Can’t Pay Attention
It’s one of the main symptoms of ADHD. Your child may find it hard to listen to a speaker, follow directions, finish tasks, or keep track of her stuff. She may daydream a lot and make careless mistakes. Or she may avoid activities that need concentration or seem boring to her.
Another sign of ADHD: Your kid just can’t seem to sit still. He may run and climb on things all the time, even when indoors. When he’s sitting down, he tends to squirm, fidget, or bounce. You also might notice he talks a lot and finds it hard to play quietly.
You’ll notice that your kid may find it hard to wait his turn. He may cut in line, interrupt others, or blurt out answers before the teacher finishes a question.
What Causes It?
Kids with ADHD have less activity in areas of the brain that control attention. They may also have imbalances in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. It’s not clear what causes this to happen, but ADHD runs in families, so many experts believe genes play a role.
There are no lab tests for ADHD. Instead, your child’s doctor will ask her questions, listen to your description of behavior problems, and look at her teacher’s comments. To get a diagnosis, your child must show some combo of symptoms for 6 months, like not paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. They must have appeared no later than age 12.
Medications for ADHD
Stimulant meds help increase your child’s attention span and control hyperactive and impulsive behavior. Studies suggest these drugs work in 65% to 80% of kids with ADHD. As with any medicine, there can be side effects. Discuss these with your doctor. Nonstimulant drugs are options for some kids, too, but they also can have side effects.
It can help your child learn to handle frustrations and build self-esteem. It also teaches you some support strategies. One type of therapy, called social skills training, shows him how to take turns and share. Studies show that long-term treatment with a combo of drugs and behavioral therapy works better than medication alone.
Most kids with ADHD go to regular classrooms, but some do better in a place that’s got more structure. If your child goes to special education, he’ll get schooling that’s tailored to meet his learning style.
The Role of Routine
You can give your child more structure at home if you lay out clear routines. Post a daily schedule that reminds her of what she’s supposed to do throughout the day. This helps her stay on task. It should include specific times to wake up, eat, play, do homework and chores, and go to bed.
Your Child’s Diet
Studies on diets have mixed results, but some experts believe food that’s good for the brain could be helpful. Things that are high in protein, like eggs, meat, beans, and nuts, may help your child concentrate better. You may also want to replace simple carbs, like candy and white bread, with complex ones, like pears and whole-grain bread. Talk to your pediatrician before making any big changes in what your child eats.
Can You Prevent ADHD?
There’s no surefire way to keep your kid from getting it, but there are steps you can take to cut the risk. When you’re pregnant, avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Kids whose mothers smoke during pregnancy may be twice as likely to get ADHD.
With treatment, a large majority of children with ADHD improve. And if your child’s symptoms continue as he turns into a grown-up, he can still get help that’s appropriate for adults.