This article covers
- What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
- Causes of ADHD
- The symptoms of ADHD
- Treating ADHD
- List of useful resources
- How Mindsum can help?
What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects behaviour and causes the child or young person to be hyperactive, impulsive and/or inattentive. It is usually spotted in childhood.
Hyperactivity is not always the main sign of ADHD. In fact, there are three types of ADHD. This includes:
The inattentive type, where it is very difficult for the child to focus and pay attention to detail. They easily wander off and find it hard to finish tasks and to be organized.
The hyperactive and impulsive type, where it is very difficult for the child to remain calm. They are always on the go, running around, fidgeting, talking a lot and acting in the moment without thinking.
The combined type, where the child has symptoms of both types mentioned above.
It can be easy for children and young people with ADHD to feel out of control and misunderstood. Others who may not understand, can think that they are acting out on purpose. This can make them feel sad and alone and can affect their self-esteem. It is important to support children and young people with ADHD in managing the disorder and preventing problems with their mental health.
Causes of ADHD
The specific cause of ADHD is not known. It is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors as well as differences in the way the brain works. These are some factors to consider:
- Runs in families
- Problems at birth (e.g. low birth weight, preterm delivery)
- Problems during pregnancy (e.g. smoking, alcohol consumption)
- Lead exposure at a young age
- Brain injury
- Iron deficiency
ADHD is diagnosed more often in boys than in girls. This is because boys tend to present with more disruptive symptoms and girls with more inattentive symptoms.
The symptoms of ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD usually start before the age of 12 years. These symptoms cause problems in different situations, such as the school and home. The child or young person will experience issues with making friends, performing well in school and completing tasks by themselves. Based on the type of ADHD, there are different symptoms that you may notice.
The inattentive type symptoms can include:
- Failing to pay attention
- Careless mistakes
- Difficulty to maintain concentration while doing tasks
- The mind seems to be elsewhere during conversations
- Can rarely follow instructions and finish tasks
- Difficulty with organising tasks
- Dislikes tasks that need mental effort
- Often forgets their belongings
The hyperactive and impulsive type symptoms can include:
- Constant fidgeting
- Leaving seat when remaining still is required (e.g. at school)
- Running around and climbing in situations where it is not appropriate (e.g. during class time)
- Difficulty to stay calm and quiet during activities
- Always on the go and can be difficult to keep up with
- Talks a lot
- Blurting out answer before someone finishes the question
- Has a hard time waiting for their turn
- Often interrupts others
Other problems related to ADHD
Sometimes the child or young person can suffer with other conditions, as well as ADHD. This can include anxiety disorders, conduct disorders, depression, sleep problems, autism spectrum disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy and learning difficulties.
“ Sophia is a 10-year-old girl. Since starting school Sophia has found it really hard to pay attention in class. The teachers report that Sophia’s mind always seems to be elsewhere. She feels embarrassed every time it is her turn to read in class, but she just can’t seem to focus long enough to do it. Her mother realises that Sophia forgets things quite a lot and misplaces her belongings. Sophia has started to feel sad and irritable on most days. She finds it hard to keep friends, as it is really difficult for her to keep up. Sophia’s parents decided that it was time to speak to a mental health expert for some support.”
Recognising the signs of ADHD early on and seeking treatment can be helpful in preventing long-term problems. With treatment, the child or young person can manage the disorder and have a better chance at living a better life. Treatment can include the following:
Parent training/educational programmes
This programme helps to support parents in learning new skills that will help the child succeed at home and at school. This can include communication skills, positive reinforcement skills, effective discipline and assignment of specific activities for the parent/carer and child.
Therapy will help support your child with managing difficult feelings and emotions that usually comes when coping with ADHD. This therapy can include Cognitive behavioural therapy and social skills training. This will help your child in learning social skills, problem solving skills, listening skills and self-control.
A specialist can prescribe medication to treat ADHD, but treatment that also includes therapy is usually best. Within the UK, there are 5 types of medication that is licensed for treating ADHD. This includes:
Medication is not a cure for ADHD, but it can help your child to feel calmer and more able to concentrate in their everyday life
It is advisable for children and young people with ADHD to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Exercise may also help your child to sleep better at night, which makes the symptoms less severe the following day. Having an early bedtime will also help your child get enough sleep. It is important to organise your child’s daily activities. This can be done using timetables, checklists and a consistent routine. An organised routine will be helpful for your child to complete tasks, to remember things and to be more successful in coping with everyday life.
For more information about ADHD on the NHS website. Click here to access the link.
The ADHD foundation offers a variety of helpful resources for parents and young people. Click here to access the link.
Anna Freud NCCF
This national centre for children and families offer helpful resources including podcasts for parents and carers on ADHD. Click here to access these podcasts.
For more information and access to resources for young people on the YoungMinds website. Click here to access the link.
'How NOT to Murder your ADHD Kid: Instead Learn How To Be Your Child's Own ADHD Coach' by Sarah Templeton. Click here to get the book.