Does your child always seem to be running around? Is he/she easily distracted by the least of sounds? Does he/she find it difficult to focus on anything?
Have you classified these symptoms as a result of your child merely being naughty or playful? Think again.
Kids are naughty, definitely. However, there are several ailments, which may come across as the child being naughty but are actually a form of disorder classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). One of these ailments is ADHD.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) refers to three major symptoms; inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These can be detected in the following behaviors:
- Does your child make careless mistakes in schoolwork?
- Does your child find it difficult to sustain attention in tasks or play?
- Does your child fail to finish chores, schoolwork etc.?
- Does your child seem distractible even when you are talking to him/ her?
- Does your child have difficulty organizing tasks?
- Does your child avoid tasks that require sustained effort?
- Does your child often lose things?
- Is your child easily distracted by external stimuli?
- Is your child often forgetful?
Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
- Does your child often fidget with hands, feet, or squirms in their seat?
- Does your child often leave his/her seat during the class?
- Does your child often run or climb when it is inappropriate?
- Is your child often ‘on the go’?
- Does your child talk excessively?
- Does your child have a hard time waiting for the question to be completed before he/she blurts out an answer?
- Does your child have difficulty waiting his/her turn?
- Does your child often interrupt during conversations?
If your child seems to have at least six or more of the symptoms in any one (or both) areas, he/she might be suffering from attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder.
How to treat ADHD?
Treatment for ADHD helps manage symptoms. The treatment modalities consist of medication or therapy. Often, a combination of both is best.
Both the diagnosis and medication are best left to the psychiatrist. If you suspect, your child may have ADHD, it’s best to see a professional right away. The disorder can be easily diagnosed from ages 4 and up.
Initiating therapy for your child is also recommended. The therapist will help you understand the disorder, train and educate you regarding your behavior with the child and work with your child on several aspects (i.e., behavior therapy, social skills training etc.).
Further, certain diets and supplements are also seen to help with the treatment. The treating team will guide you regarding the same.
How can I help my child?
Apart from consulting the psychiatrist and psychologist and starting the treatment at the outset once the diagnosis has been made, there are certain things you can do to help your child.
- Nature and Exercise. Your child needs to spend time in nature. Playing outside for at least 30 minutes is essential. Other recommended activities are dance, gymnastics, skating, and martial arts. Encourage team sports.
- Regular sleep plays an important role in managing ADHD symptoms. Ensure there is a regular sleep and wake time for your child. Turn off all electronics at least an hour prior to bed (i.e., phone, TV, computer, tablet). Also, limit physical activity a few hours before bedtime.
- Nutrition. Schedule regular meals. Ensure your child has snacks every two to three hours. Include protein and carbohydrates in each meal. Check the levels of Zinc, Iron, and Magnesium in your child. Boosting these would be of help. Add Omega-3 fatty acids to your child’s diet (i.e., tuna, fortified eggs, milk products, salmon, sardines).
- Behavior Therapy. Set specific goals for your child. Make a daily timetable and stick to it. Provide rewards for a behavior well done and consequence for when the child fails to meet a pre-decided goal. Use the rewards and consequences consistently to ensure the long-term changes in behavior.
- Consistency. Follow a routine. Set a time and place for everything. Establish predictable routine for bed, meals, study, and play.
- Organization. Encourage the child to put things in same place every day that will reduce the chances of losing things.
- Manage distractions. Limit noise, turn off the TV, and clear the workspace for your child to do homework.
- Limit choices. Don’t overwhelm or over-stimulate the child with too many options. Offer choice, but fewer.
- Clarity and specificity. Be clear and specific in your conversation with your child. Use brief directions to direct them.
- Use discipline effectively. Do not yell or spank. Use timeouts or remove privileges as consequences of inappropriate behavior or failing goals.
ADHD is a distressing condition, both for the child as well as the parents. However, with timely and effective treatment, it can be brought under control. Following these tips with your child will go a long way in changing his behavior in the long-term.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Barkley, R. A. (Ed.). (2014). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A handbook for diagnosis and treatment. New York: Guilford Publications.