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ADHD in Children

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A common question I encounter in my work with children is, “Does my child have ADHD or is he or she just being a typical kid?” To this question, I answer that children with ADHD show signs of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity in specific ways. These children:

  • Are in constant motion
  • Squirm and fidget
  • Do not seem to listen
  • Have trouble playing quietly
  • Often talk excessively
  • Interrupt or intrude on others
  • Are easily distracted
  • Do not finish tasks
  • Appear to have an internal motor that just won’t shut down.

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the signs and symptoms of which typically appear before the age of seven. It can be difficult, however, to distinguish between ADHD and normal “kid behavior.”

For example, if you observe just a few signs, or the symptoms appear only in some situations, it’s probably not ADHD. On the other hand, if your child shows several ADHD signs and symptoms that are present across all situations — at home, at school, and at play — it’s time to look closer.

One great tool at a parent’s disposal is neuropsychological testing. These assessments review major areas of the brain and focus on the following:

Tests for attention span and memory

  • The child might be asked to:
    • Repeat a series of numbers, letters, or words
    • Look at some simple drawings, then draw them from memory

Tests for language and speech skills

  • The child might be asked to:
    • Name pictures that the examiner shows
    • Point to a picture named by the examiner
    • Name as many words as the child can think of that begin with a certain letter or are in a certain category (for example, animals or fruits)

Test for reasoning, planning, and organizing skills

  • The child might be asked to:
    • Sort cards according to colors or shapes on the cards
    • Use a pencil to connect a series of numbered or lettered dots on a sheet of paper
    • Stack colored disks in a certain pattern

Completing the tests may take several hours. Not all of them need to be taken all at once.

Because ADHD involves several symptoms seen in other disorders, a full neuropsychological evaluation is essential for a proper diagnosis, especially if medications may be involved. Such formal testing also determines the specific ADHD subtype and identifies the most effective recommendations for the child’s specific symptoms. Note that girls with ADHD often go undiagnosed because they tend to show better self-control than boys despite experiencing similar distractions in class.

When parents understand the issues with which their children struggle — forgetfulness or inattention at school, for example — they can work together for finding creative solutions and capitalizing on strengths.

 

Image: CK, Carl, Carlo, Carlito on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

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