What about Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD is a behavior disorder that means a child has difficulty attending, concentrating, and controlling impulses. Distractibility and hyperactivity may also be present. These problems must be significantly out of the “normal range” for the child’s age. That is, where it may be normal for a 4-year-old to become restless and fidgety after being read to for 10 minutes, it is inappropriate for a 15-year-old to be jumpy and squirming after 10 minutes of reading.  This common disorder begins in early childhood and can continue into adulthood.  The exact cause is not clear, although the disorder tends to run in families, so a genetic factor is likely.

ADHD is probably grossly over-diagnosed and many children are likely to be needlessly medicated because some professional believed that a child who fidgeted in class must be ADHD. All too often, diagnoses are made by practitioners who are not qualified and have little real training and experience in working with ADHD children. Likewise, medication is often prescribed with little or no follow-up.

There is no one “test” for ADHD. However, an experienced clinician can see how a child behaves during various tasks, some of which demand concentration and focus, and some that do not. Likewise, there are good tests for distractibility, which also go with ADHD. And most importantly, an experienced clinician can observe a child, talk with his/her teachers and parents, and get a good sense of a child’s behavior.

What are the symptoms of ADHD in children?

Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

Children who have symptoms of inattention may:

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty focusing on one thing
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
  • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions

Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Talk nonstop
  • Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
  • Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
  • Be constantly in motion
  • Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities

Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may:

  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
  • Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turn in games
  • Often interrupt conversations or others’ activities

 

ADHD is a serious disorder, which can have major consequences for learning and social skills. ADHD must be carefully diagnosed, by an experienced and qualified professional. The diagnosis should be based on data gathered from a number of different sources (tests, behavioral observations, teacher reports, parent reports). The disorder must be closely monitored, especially if medication is prescribed, and teachers and parents must be given concrete strategies for helping the child.

Treatment

So many children today struggle to regulate their feelings and behaviors.  The result is they act in ways that diminish their self-esteem and strain vital family and peer relationships. Often these children’s emotions escalate quickly and intensely and they don’t have the life experience to know how to deal with them or put them in perspective.

We use a combination of Cognitive Behavioral therapy to help a child change his or her thinking and behavior. It might involve practical assistance, such as help organizing tasks or completing schoolwork, or working through emotionally difficult events. Behavioral therapy also teaches a child how to monitor his or her own behavior. Learning to give oneself praise or rewards for acting in a desired way, such as controlling anger or thinking before acting, is another goal of behavioral therapy. Parents and teachers also can give positive or negative feedback for certain behaviors. In addition, clear rules, chore lists, and other structured routines can help a child control his or her behavior.

We also teach children social skills, such as how to wait their turn, share toys, ask for help, or respond to teasing. Learning to read facial expressions and the tone of voice in others, and how to respond appropriately, can also be part of social skills training.

We work closely with parents, teachers and schools to help the child reach his/her full potential. Before a child is diagnosed, frustration, blame, and anger may have built up within a family. Parents and children may need special help to overcome bad feelings. They also will help the child and his or her parents develop new skills, attitudes, and ways of relating to each other.  It is important for both parents and caregivers to be on the same page working with the child.  We teach how to use a system of rewards and consequences to change a child’s behavior. Parents are taught to give immediate and positive feedback for behaviors they want to encourage, and ignore or redirect behaviors they want to discourage. In some cases, the use of “time-outs” may be used when the child’s behavior gets out of control. In a time-out, the child is removed from the upsetting situation and sits alone for a short time to calm down.

Parents are also encouraged to share a pleasant or relaxing activity with the child, to notice and point out what the child does well, and to praise the child’s strengths and abilities. They may also learn to structure situations in more positive ways. For example, they may restrict the number of playmates to one or two, so that their child does not become over stimulated. Or, if the child has trouble completing tasks, parents can help their child divide large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Also, parents may benefit from learning stress-management techniques to increase their own ability to deal with frustration, so that they can respond calmly to their child’s behavior.

Sometimes, the whole family may need therapy. Our psychologists can help family members find better ways to handle disruptive behaviors and to encourage behavior changes.

We offer a Social Skills Group to assist children and adolescents in developing more appropriate and successful approaches to building friendships with their peers.  Children and adolescents also develop better communication skills, learn the differences between being assertive, aggressive or unfriendly.  These groups are extremely beneficial in nurturing healthy development of social skills.

Locations

St Charles | 405 Illinois Avenue, Ste. 2C

Oak Brook | 1200 Harger Road, Ste. 220

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