What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
The term Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) describes children or adults who have difficulties in staying attentive or focused, are impulsive, frequently very active (over-active) at levels higher than expected for their age and have difficulties controlling their behaviour. Although the disorder is usually diagnosed during childhood, it may continue into adulthood.
What Are The Symptoms?
- Hyperactivity and restlessness
- Poor impulse control – acting without thinking
- Compulsive aggression – disruptive at home and in school, disturbs other children, and may behave in potentially dangerous ways
- Excitable, impulsive and unpredictable behaviour – frustration may lead to temper tantrums
- Difficulty in dealing with failure or frustration – may cry often and easily
- Short attention span – difficulty with concentration
- Poor muscle and eye-hand co-ordination
- Poor sleeping habits
- Normal or high IQ yet experiences difficulties at school.
What Causes ADHD?
The exact causes of ADHD are not clear. Like many other conditions ADHD may develop in response to a combination of biological, psychological and social factors.
What Treatment is Available?
There is no one single treatment for the symptoms of ADHD. However it is thought that a combination of talking treatments, such as psychotherapy, counselling, behaviour therapy, family therapy, parenting skills training, and education support can be used to gain some control over the symptoms. A multi-pronged approach to treatment is most useful, with a variety of interventions available from parents, schools and professionals.
The most common types of medication used for treating ADHD in Australia are psychostimulant drugs called Dexamphetamine or Ritalin. Although it may seem unusual to treat ADHD with a medication considered a stimulant, it actually has a calming effect on children with ADHD. It is important to learn about the pros and cons of medication and discuss these with your doctor.
Behaviour techniques may help parents and teachers to assist the child to identify and moderate problematic behaviour; additional one-to-one help in the classroom may also prove useful.
Some parents have found that changing the child’s diet improves the symptoms.
What Can I Do to Help Myself/My Child?
- Attend support groups to find other parents dealing with similar difficulties
- Attend training in parenting skills
- Learn how to advocate for your child effectively with schools and health professionals
- Build your own support network of family members, friends, other families with ADHD and professional services – don’t try to cope alone.