How to recognize the signs of ADHD in your child
As parents and teachers know, most children demonstrate hyperactive behaviour from time to time. It’s quite common, and, in fact, it would be unusual for a child not to show great excitement and enthusiasm on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays. But if your child is frequently hyperactive or unable to pay attention or stay focused, it may be time to seek a professional opinion.
Hyperactive behaviour, or an inability to stay focused or pay attention, can be signs of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s important to address ADHD as soon as possible, as it can interfere with a child’s performance in school and participation in outside activities and social interactions.
Typically, a diagnosis of ADHD is not made unless signs of hyperactivity or an inability to pay attention are seen in more than one setting. To diagnose ADHD, a doctor will compare a child’s behaviour to ADHD symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition, known in the medical community as the DSM-V. The child must show at least six symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity and the symptoms must be seen both at home and at school for a diagnosis of ADHD to be made.
What do these symptoms look like? Hyperactive behaviour patterns, impulsive behaviour, self-control problems, and an inability to pay attention can all signal ADHD.
Here are some symptoms of inattentive ADHD:
· Does not pay attention to detail in schoolwork or other activities and makes careless mistakes.
· Fails to follow through on instructions and does not finish schoolwork or chores.
· Is not able to stay focused on tasks and play activities – shows a short attention span.
· Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
· Has a hard time organizing tasks and activities.
· Avoids or shows dislike toward activities that demand a sustained mental effort (like homework).
· Loses items that are needed for tasks and activities, such as notebooks, pencils, assignments or toys.
· Is easily distracted by things going on around him/her.
· Is forgetful in daily activities.
Symptoms of hyperactive ADHD include:
· Fidgety behaviour, squirming in his/her seat.
· Leaving his/her seat when expected to remain there, as in a classroom setting.
· Running or climbing in situations where these behaviours are considered inappropriate.
· Has a hard time staying quiet while playing or engaging in activities.
· Talks excessively.
Symptoms of impulsive ADHD include:
· Blurts out answers in the classroom when it’s inappropriate to do so.
· Can’t wait for his/her turn.
· Interrupts others or intrudes in their activities.
These behavioural patterns can be a problem, especially when they affect a child in school. They interfere with a child’s ability to participate in lessons and social activity at school. It is also possible that teachers who are not familiar with ADHD will see the child’s hyperactivity or impulsiveness as a behaviour problem and scold or punish the child. Scolding or punishing a child with ADHD will not help. In fact, punishing a child with ADHD could be very damaging in the long run, as it can leave the child with a negative attitude towards school.
Since all children are hyperactive, inattentive or impulsive from time to time, some parents assume that the behaviour is just a passing phase that will eventually disappear. Some parents might think it’s the child’s true nature, and it can’t be changed. Grandparents might suggest that the child’s parent was also that way at a young age, so it’s not really something to worry about.
If you see symptoms of ADHD at home and are told that similar behaviour has been noticed at school too, see your child’s paediatrician or your family doctor. Remember that you will be helping your child live a healthier life by bringing these behaviours like these to the attention of a medical professional. The sooner you deal with them, the less impact they will have on your child’s schooling, social life and overall well-being.
Authored by Dr Malvika Samnani, Clinical Head, Mom’s Belief