Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that results from the immature functioning of certain areas of the brain.
These areas of the brain are involved in control of functions such as holding attention, motivation, planning and organising, self-esteem, behaviour, and mood and muscle activity.
Individuals with ADHD often have little control over their symptoms. They do not possess the self-control to manage things that other people usually take for granted. These individuals cannot take control over their behaviour in the way that other people expect of them. Yet, their intelligence and other brain functions are usually very ‘normal’ or above average.
Individuals with ADHD will often share some characteristics with each other, but such problems do not automatically mean ADHD is indicated.
You may recognise the following traits:
The individual is easily distracted. They have difficulty in rejecting or blocking out distractions. They have a lack of persistence of effort, flitting from task to task. The individual exhibits poor selective attention and may have difficulty in focusing, having poor sustained attention or trouble in continuing this focus over a period of time. There is another related condition called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) which does not include the hyperactive dimension. The individual has poor short-term memory and some appear distant, dreamy and ‘spaced out’.
The youngster speaks and acts without thinking and has a ‘short fuse’. They exhibit poor regulation of behaviour, eg spitting, biting, hitting, swearing, fighting and rudeness. They wander or run off. They are unaware of danger to self and others.
The youngster is never satisfied, goes on and on, interrogates intrudes and generates great tension.
The individual is restless, fidgety, fiddles and touches things inappropriately. They have difficulty in completing tasks, projects or activities.
The youngster is ‘out of tune’ socially; they act silly in a crowd and misread social cues. They overpower and boss others about and lose friends easily.
The youngster may be clumsy, having an awkward flow of movement. They have difficulty doing two actions at the same time. They produce messy written work.
Academically the youngster has problems with:
• Structuring school work
• Interpretation of information
• Poor planning
• Organising himself/herself
• Setting goals
• Starting or initiating important tasks.
The youngster suffers from mood swings, has unexplained good and bad days, can be volatile.
Examples are dyslexia, dyscalculia, language problems, difficulties with handwriting, and problems with written work.
There are several other conditions that can co-exist within an individual with ADHD.
The following diagram shows some of the disorders that are most frequently found to co-exist with ADHD within an individual.
Our aim is to look at how we can help put you in touch with good sources of guidance and share what we have found to be helpful.
If you think your child has ADHD or behavioural problems, you should contact your GP in the first place. They will refer you to the CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service) Team in your area for diagnosis. For contact details of the CAMHS service in your area, please follow our website link ‘Useful contacts’.
The CAMHS Team will arrange for an initial assessment to be undertaken. This may involve a consultation with a Consultant Psychiatrist to fully assess your child.
The DSM diagnostic criteria which must be met for a person to be diagnosed with ADHD is available on the Internet.
There is no cure for ADHD, however, there are numerous ways that a child or adult can be helped to overcome their symptoms. These often include a combination of interventions, a number of which are as follows:
There are several medications prescribed for children with ADHD. These medicines work best when combined with additional therapies and advice and support for parents and teachers. Medication produces some relief of symptoms after each dose but is not a permanent cure. It helps create a window of opportunity to learn and practice new skills.
Skilled teachers can minimise the impact of ADHD by the way they organise the classroom and how they present information. They can ensure the child or young person does not become demoralised.
A third of children with ADHD have some speech and language problems. Help can come from school, a speech and language therapist or group therapy.
Children with ADHD often have co-ordination problems, Occupational Therapy will help develop both fine and gross motor skills, improve social skills and build confidence.
There are numerous behaviour management programmes around. Choose a programme that will help you to develop strategies to help your child modify their behaviour. (CAMHS may point you towards such support.).
Children and young people with ADHD often have difficulty controlling their temper. Anger management training helps them recognise triggers and develop strategies to control their anger. (Some schools run this type of course.).
Children and young people with ADHD often have very underdeveloped social skills. Social skills training will help young people learn how to behave appropriately in a range of situations, build their self-esteem and self-confidence.
There are numerous nutritional supplements thought to be of help with ADHD to help counterbalance digestive flaws eg Omega 3 fish oils.
Various exclusion diets have been promoted to help relieve the symptoms of ADHD. It has been shown that avoidance of some foodstuffs such as gluten and casein can help with hyperactivity. Increasingly, it is recognised how closely the gut and brain are linked.