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The truth about attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder

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Lisa Hill

Lisa Hill

This week, I had the opportunity to supervise my first- and third-grade grandchildren while participating in online schooling. Although separated, I was impressed with how focused they were despite the everyday activities in the house. I have a cat that antagonizes everyone just for the fun of it and a senior dog who barks incessantly. At one point, my third-grader was having trouble with her headset. It was at that time that I heard the teacher constantly redirecting another student. The teacher said things like, “please return to the camera; turn the camera back on; stop interrupting the class, and it is not your time to speak.” My granddaughter told me that a particular student often got in trouble. 

I recognized the student’s behavior as possible signs of attention deficit, and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a complex neurological condition. According to the ADDitude website, ADHD results from low levels of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. An ADHD brain has impaired activity in one or all four brain regions: Frontal Cortex, Limbic system, Basal Ganglia, and Reticular Activating System. All of these regions are responsible for attentiveness, emotions, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-V), children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) show signs of inattentiveness for at least six months or more in at least six of the following areas: failure to pay close attention to details or make careless mistakes in schoolwork, trouble sustaining attention on tasks or play activities, not listening when spoken to directly, failure to follow through on instructions, and failure to finish schoolwork or chores because they lose focus or get sidetracked. Children with ADD have trouble organizing tasks and activities. They will avoid or express displeasure to do tasks that require mental effort over a long time, such as homework or schoolwork. Another sign that parents often miss is that children with ADD will often lose things necessary for tasks such as pencils, books, cell phone, or tablet. Failure to produce school materials will often frustrate parents who think the behavior is carelessness.

According to the Center for Disease Control, a child who has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) may also have symptoms associated with impulsiveness and hyperactivity. The DSM-V describes this as attention deficit disorder with a hyperactivity component (ADHD). For this diagnosis, there must be hyperactivity or impulsivity for at least six months. A hyperactive child is often fidgety, squirming in their seat or tapping their feet or hands. They will usually leave their seat when remaining seated is expected, and often runs about or climbs during inappropriate times. Hyperactive children may be unable to participate in leisure activities and are often on the go as if driven by a motor. They may talk excessively and will blurt out answers. Hyperactive children often have trouble waiting their turn, and often interrupts or intrudes on others in conversation or games.

For the diagnosis of ADD or ADHD to be made, the symptoms must occur in two or more settings and present before the child turned 12 years old. If parents or educators are concerned that a child has ADHD, a referral to a medical doctor or clinician may rule out other disorders, such as anxiety.

Many kids suffer low self-esteem because they do not understand why they are disorganized and unable to self-regulate. Parents can help expose their children to targeted, skills-based intervention activities that allow them to sustain their attention for short periods. Parents can also assist with organization, daily planning, and time management. Some children require medication to address the educational interference that ADD or ADHD may cause. However, medication therapy is a short-term solution. Ultimately, children and later adults will have to overcompensate for the deficiency in inattentiveness. There are many adults with ADHD that was undiagnosed in childhood. There are adult ADHD self-report symptom checkers available online.

Sources:

Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-v1.1) Symptom Checklist: https://add.org/adhd-test/

Silver, L., MD (2020). The Neuroscience of the ADHD Brain. ADDITUDE Inside the ADHD mind: https://www.google.comp/amp/s/www.additudemag.com/neuroscience-of-adhd-brain/amp/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html

Lisa Hill, Ph.D., is an associate professor in criminal justice at California State University, East Bay and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She also worked for county and federal probation departments for three decades and wrote a book based on that experience. She and her husband live in Tracy and have four children. Contact her at courageousconversations209@gmail.com.

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