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?
- find it difficult to sustain attention in tasks or play?
- fail to finish chores, schoolwork etc.?
- seem distractible even when you are talking to him/ her?
- have difficulty organizing tasks?
- avoid tasks that require sustained effort?
- often lose things?
- gets easily distracted by external stimuli?
- Is your child often forgetful?
Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
Does your child:
- frequently fidget with hands, feet, or squirms in their seat?
- often leave his/her seat during the class?
- often run or climb when it is inappropriate?
- talk excessively?
- have a hard time waiting for the question to be completed before he/she blurts out an answer?
- have difficulty waiting his/her turn?
- often interrupt during conversations?
- Is your child often ‘on the go’?
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 mostly consists 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 that 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.
Additionally, think about therapy for your child. It can be highly valuable for both of you. The right therapist will help you understand the disorder, train and educate you regarding your behaviour with the child and work with your child on several aspects (i.e., behaviour therapy, social skills training etc.).
ADHD can be 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 their behaviour in the long term.
How can I help my child afflicted with ADHD?
Apart from consulting professionals and starting the treatment at the outset once the diagnosis has been made, you can also do some concrete things 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.
- Regular sleep. Ensure there are a regular sleep and wake times 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. 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).
- Behaviour Therapy. Set specific goals for your child. Make a daily timetable and stick to it. Provide rewards for a behaviour 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 a predictable routine for bed, meals, study, and play.
- Organization. Encourage the child to put things in the 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 conversation with your child. Use brief directions to direct them.
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.