Almost all children have times when they don’t seem to pay attention, cannot sit still or just have more energy than they can burn. For some children, this difficulty concentrating or hyperactivity is so severe and persistent that it interferes with many social and academic tasks. It often causes academic underachievement, behavior problems and low self-esteem.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that makes it hard for children to pay attention or sit still. It is one of the most common childhood conditions. It affects 6 to 9 percent of all school-age children. Symptoms may begin before a child starts school. The exact cause of ADHD is not known.
A child who has true ADHD may talk constantly, be unable to wait his or her turn, and pay little attention to details. The child may also be easily distracted, act before thinking, have problems with social relationships or have difficulty controlling anger.
There is no specific test for ADHD. It can be hard to distinguish the condition from age-appropriate behaviors in active children. Generally, doctors look for three basic symptoms that show up in two or more settings, such as home and school:
According to guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association, doctors should then look for several specific behaviors within these categories. The symptoms should last at least six months, appear by age 7 and significantly impair the child’s ability to function in school, at home or in social settings.
Doctors usually treat ADHD with prescription medication. Your child should see his or her doctor within a few weeks after beginning medication for ADHD. The doctor will make sure the medication is working. Once your child has a good medication routine, he or she should see the doctor at least every three months.
Children do not simply outgrow ADHD as they develop and mature. Many people continue to experience symptoms throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Developing an effective treatment plan for your child can help prevent some common problems that may arise during the teenage years.
Whether a child diagnosed with ADHD is on medication or not, parents can help by: