Friday, September 30, 2011

Hyperactive - Or Just Being a Kid?

“Sit down!  Why can’t you sit still?” 
“Don’t touch that!”
 “I told you that it’s time to go?  Why aren’t you ready yet?”
“How could you forget your homework again?”
“Get off that ____!”  (sharp thing, dangerous high thing, major machinery that children shouldn’t be on, museum object with sign that says ‘Don’t Touch’, etc, etc)

Do you ever feel like a broken record?  Or think that your child is ignoring you?  Or perhaps that there is something wrong with your child, or your skills as a parent?

Well… I have.  As I watch one of my sons, yet again, be unable to keep his hands off of the items around him, or sit still for longer than a second, I wonder if there is more to him than meets the eye.

Now, my oldest is the calm, rule-following, responsible one who tends to obey and follow most of my requests.  While he’s not a robot, he seems to get what my husband and I are trying to say.

My second, however, is totally different (as he should be).  I love him to pieces, but he can drive me crazy at times.  Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bad kid.  He’s actually very bright, very creative, and downright funny.  He will be the first one to help his younger siblings if they are in need.  He’s a pretty decent athlete and shines in many ways. 

However, he just can’t stop moving!  He gets frustrated easily and is very easily distracted.  He doesn’t appear to know when it’s inappropriate to grab things from other people, and has a very hard time waiting for his turn.

Part of me wonders if he is just so different from my first son, that I’m making comparisons that just aren’t realistic or fair.  But then, when I’m talking to parents and evaluating their children for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), I know in my heart that he may very well have it.

The good news is that ADD/ADHD is a treatable condition and that are many resources now available for parents and their children.  ADD/ADHD may affect as many as 10% of the population.  That means that in the average classroom of 24 kids, at least two children may suffer from the disorder.  But how do you know if your child has a disorder or if he is just being a kid… and since it’s more common in boys (five times more common in boys than girls) – how do you know if he isn’t just “being a boy”?

ADD/ADHD tends to run in families (hmmm, so maybe it is my fault!) and at least two genes have been associated with the disease.  Studies have shown the disease to be associated with brain chemical (neurotransmitter) changes, structural brain changes and is frequently found in children with other health conditions.  It is felt that ADD/ADHD may be partly due to developmental delay of the part of the brain that is responsible for executive functioning (which is the part that manages control and judgment).

As children get older, many of them are able to learn to manage their symptoms as they gain the maturity and develop the higher brain function needed to govern attention, planning and judgment.  Many adults who have ADD/ADHD do quite well and are able to multitask successfully.  Some may still require medications as adults, but that is not very common.

There are several standardized tests and tools that medical doctors and psychologists use to help to determine if a child has ADD/ADHD.  For the most part, it is recommended that you wait until your child is in school before testing is done.  Often, the very active preschooler does fine when he reaches the age of 5-6 years and starts attending elementary school.  

Treating the disease is important to ensure maximum success at school.  Treatment may involve behavior modification therapy, working closely with teachers, getting special services for extra time for classwork and homework, accommodations such as having an extra copy of textbooks at home, and sometimes taking medications.

The criteria for the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD include the following:
a.                   often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
b.                  often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
c.                   often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
d.                  often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish tasks
e.                   often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
f.                   often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
g.                  often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
h.                  is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
i.                    is often forgetful in daily activities

a.                   often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
b.                  often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
c.                   often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings or restlessness).
d.                  often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
e.                   is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor."
f.                   often talks excessively
g.                  Impulsivity – has difficulty awaiting turns, interrupts or intrudes on others

If you suspect that your child may have attention or hyperactivity issues, take your child to your pediatrician for further evaluation and advice.

(Okay, so it’s taken me five tries to sit down and finish writing this as I got distracted by the phone, my emails, searching for food, putting away dishes, doing the laundry… so guess where my son got it from?  Oh well... hopefully he got enough good genes from my husband's side to balance him out!) 

Take care and thanks for reading!