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ADHD – A four letter word

At some point in your parenting career, you have probably heard of ADHD. These four letters bring out a variety of emotions in people – from relief at finally identifying a cause for school and home-life difficulties, to frustration of everyday coping with ADHD, even to skepticism at the validity of the diagnosis. At the end of this article series, you should have a better understanding of what these 4 letters mean and how to help your child if you think he or she struggles with ADHD.

Break it down

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and comes in three different flavors: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive and combined type. Let’s talk about what characteristics we notice in kids with ADHD.

  • Inattention may look like missed details, careless mistakes, poor listening skills, forgetfulness, extreme difficulty staying organized, and inability to follow a sequence of instructions.
  • Hyperactivity is often more obvious. Children often fidget and squirm when they are supposed to sit still, whether it be in a classroom, a dinner table or at the movie theatre. Turn-waiting is very difficult. During conversation, they blurt out their thoughts or inappropriately interrupt others. Often these people will express that they feel like there is a motor going in their head that is in non-stop motion.
  • Impulsivity is another trait often associated with ADHD. Those affected act without thinking. They make decisions both important and not important without considering  the consequences. A child may do something they know to be wrong or inappropriate but later say “I couldn’t help it!”

What causes ADHD?

Even after many years of research, there is no definitive cause of ADHD. From a chemical standpoint, those with ADHD may have differences in dopamine and/or norepinephrine metabolism. Research also suggests the actual connections in the brain are different in this population.

Myths and misbeliefs

  1. ADHD is not about intelligence.  Standardized testing often reveals that the child in question has an above average or even superior IQ.
  2. ADHD is not caused by diet. There is conclusive evidence that ADHD is not related to food intake (i.e. sugar or chocolate) or a vitamin deficiency.
  3. ADHD is not a reflection of parenting skills.  ADHD is not caused by an overly strict or overly lax parent. Now clearly some parental personalities can adjust to an ADHD child personality better than others, but it is not the cause of the condition!

Next time we will discuss how ADHD is diagnosed, so stay tuned.