What Are the Signs of ADHD? And What Can You Do About Them?
Takeaway: With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), children are easily distracted, hyperactive, and impulsive. And this can make it harder for them to get things done, listen to the adults in their lives, make and keep friends, and generally ‘fit in.’ But if their ADHD is spotted early, there’s a lot we can do to help them live happier lives.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) describes behaviour that’s further along a specific spectrum, and it’s the result of a child’s brain developing slightly differently. On one side of the spectrum, we have a child who’s calm, focussed, and interested in what she’s doing. Now, catch her in a different mood, and you might notice she’s distracted, restless, and less focussed. But she’s like this only from time to time. On the other end of the spectrum, though, you have a child with ADHD. Here, being distracted and restless is taken to an extreme, and gets in the way of her day-to-day functioning. And this is everywhere — at home, at school, and with her friends. But look a bit closer, and you’ll notice she’s struggling with one or more of three key issues: being distracted, being impulsive, and/or being overly active. So let’s examine each of these in turn.
1. Getting easily distracted
It’s not so much that a child with ADHD can’t focus on things. Even if she does try to focus, she might tidy her room for a bit, but then quickly move on to her homework, and then get engrossed in a game. So she may quite randomly get some things done but won’t manage to finish any one thing. And this tendency to be distracted gets worse if she’s in a noisy place. This tendency to get distracted pops up in other ways, too. For example, seeming to lose interest in people as they’re speaking to her, missing out key steps when doing her homework, constantly finishing tasks late, and regularly losing things.
2. Always being on the move
This characteristic is probably the easiest thing to spot. Aside from being easily distracted, you might notice them tapping their feet, drumming their fingers, or generally squirming when forced to sit still. And when you can’t convince them to sit still, they’re running around and climbing anything they can find. It’s like they’re overflowing with energy and you might find this showing up as constant chatter, even when not appropriate.
3. Doing things impulsively
Being impulsive is probably what gets children with ADHD into the most trouble. One of their biggest challenges is controlling the urge to say and do things in the spur of the moment. Their whirring minds seem to act before they have a chance to stop and think things through. This can be physically dangerous — for example, running across a busy street without checking for traffic. In class, this manifests as asking questions that aren’t really connected to the lesson. This compulsive need to say what they’re thinking means a child with ADHD is often just one step away from saying something awkward or rude. As you can imagine, this makes it much harder to make and keep friends.
And there’s another layer to the situation: ADHD often overlaps with other underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Each of the ADHD traits we explored become magnified if a child has other differences. For example, some children with ADHD also get diagnosed with a learning difficulties like dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia it makes the school experience even tougher for them. Others might suffer from an anxiety disorder or depression, which can cause them to withdraw from life. Many children with ADHD also get diagnosed with ‘oppositional defiant disorder.’ Here, a child may purposefully oppose familiar authority figures like her parents. This might mean she regularly argues with them, gets angry, tries to rile them up, or blames them for her mistakes. If her diagnosis is ‘conduct disorder,’ the aggression moves up a notch. She might constantly be getting into fights, disobeying teachers, bullying smaller children, breaking into houses, and so on. Older children might also start using drugs and alcohol. These are obviously extreme cases, but they do occur, and more commonly than you’d think.
All this might sound a bit overwhelming, but the good news is that there’s a lot we can do to help.
As with most things the quicker ADHD and other underlying issues are spotted, the better. A major part of the solution is often parental and family therapy. Parents learn how best to communicate with and encourage her, it can have a dramatic effect on how she copes with her ADHD. Another way of helping is through therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), where therapists can guide and help how the child thinks and responds to the triggers in her life. Then, there’s social skills training to teach her how to get along better with her classmates. And if she’s particularly aggressive, anger management sessions can help her manage this aggression differently. We can also address other issues like learning disabilities or problems with anxiety.
While trying to fix all this, though, remember that your child has great potential and talent. They just need a bit of nurturing.
Every ADHD trait we’ve discussed on the other hand can also be ‘High energy’ can mean ‘motivated.’ So, your child can learn to channel her energy to accomplish her goals. ‘Distracted’ might also mean ‘creative’ because her mind can quickly run through a series of thoughts and ideas — finding novel connections between them. And ‘impulsive’ can be ‘spontaneous’ (if handled well), which adds freshness and variety to life. Your child can be made to understand herself and her uniqueness ,and realising this is the first step on a tough but rewarding journey.
Are you concerned that your child might have ADHD? Consider consulting a specialist for support.
The Ed Psych Practice offers consultation, advice, and problem solving for parents, nurseries, schools, and colleges, in London. We have psychologists and therapists who can help assess your child and offer guidance and support.
- Phone: +44 (0) 78 3344 7356 / (0) 79 9053 8654
- E-mail: Office@TheEdPsych.com
You might also be interested in some of our other posts.
- Is Your Child’s ‘Working Memory’ Holding Her Back?
- Why Do Some Children Take Longer to Process Things?
- The Inner World of Social, Emotional, and Mental Health (SEMH) Needs
- Can Children Practice Mindfulness? And Does It Work?
- Do Girls Experience Autism Differently?
- Why Autism Can Affect Your Child’s Sleeping Habits
- ‘Executive Functions’: The Tiny Manager in Your Child’s Head
- Why Dysgraphia Is About More than Just Messy Handwriting
- What is Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)
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