It is often a question that swirls through a parents mind, is my child just being a child or do they have ADHD.
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is a developmental impairment of the brains self-management system / executive functions, and is one of the more common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood with the diagnosis rate continuing to rise each year. The great news is that with some guidance and support, parents and children alike can thrive with ADHD.
While a diagnosis of ADHD centres on the presence of symptoms of inattentiveness and hyperactivity, ADHD is often accompanied by other mental health conditions that may impact on a child’s wellbeing and education – mood disorders, emotional lability, behavioural problems, and specific learning difficulties.
As a parent it can often be quite difficult to differentiate between what is and what is not developmentally appropriate for children of certain developmental stages. At each life stage there are developmental milestones that a person will typically progress through – infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood – these stages of development help shape the person that we become, but also, can become complicated by the presence of ADHD symptoms.
Within childhood (6 – 12 years) a young person is starting to understand more about social norms and social contracts, they are developing their academic skills and their emotional literacy. Some challenges that a child with ADHD will face in school include reading, mathematics, social rules and friendship formation, multi-step directions, and organisational skills. This is a challenge for both hyperactive and inattentive children. Parents may start to notice that their child has difficulty sitting still, often interrupting others and making careless mistakes.
Tips and tricks: Lots of positive reinforcement, boost early language skills with material that is in line with their passions and interests; create large black and yellow flash cards (this colour combination is easily processed by the brain and also triggers memory); and identify triggers and avoid or otherwise learn to manage with coping skills.
Observable signs of ADHD in young adulthood will be slightly different, but still around problems with independent organisation, planning, self-motivation and self-regulation, metacognition, and self-advocacy skills. For instance, navigating complex study schedules, sustained attention to complete longer pieces of school work (assignments), motivation to maintain balance between personal life and study, and to reflect on past experiences to help make smart choices in the future.
Tips and Tricks: Master the to-do-list, understand procrastination, praise effort not always outcome; devise an organisation system that they understand; and explain the concept of pills and skills.
For more information on ADHD and the common comorbid conditions, the raising children’s network has a wealth of knowledge. Or if you would like to learn more or undergo a full psychological evaluation, contact our friendly staff at childpsych.
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