ADHD, short for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a common brain disorder among children. Also considered to be a mental health disorder or issue, ADHD is a condition that affects millions of children. Oftentimes, this condition needs to be managed throughout a child’s life and will continue to impact them into adulthood.
There are different types of ADHD that can affect children. The three types are inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type, and combined type (both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive). All three of these types fall under the umbrella of ADHD but present themselves with different symptoms and may require different treatments and therapies to properly manage.
A precise cause for the development of ADHD is not known. However, there are factors that can contribute to a child developing this disorder. Genes may play a role in who is more likely to develop ADHD. There is some evidence that ADHD can run in families and oftentimes, having a parent or sibling with the condition is considered to be a risk factor.
Environmental factors like exposure to toxins either in utero or in early childhood can also play a role. Developmental problems could also factor into ADHD development.
There are numerous symptoms of ADHD in children.
Hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms can include: being in motion constantly, frequent or constant fidgeting or squirming in their seat, talking a great deal, running or playing physically when not appropriate, not being able to complete tasks quietly, and interrupting often.
On the other hand, inattention symptoms can include not being able to focus on tasks or activities for extended periods of time, easily being distracted, not following directions, forgetting important objects or information, not listening, and having difficulty organizing or cleaning.
A number of factors may influence the risk of a child having ADHD. Children can inherit ADHD, and the relationship to the person with the disorder indicates the child’s chance of developing ADHD. If a parent suffers from ADHD, their chance of having a child with the disorder is 50%. If an older sibling has ADHD, a child has more than a 30% chance of developing ADHD.
Studies show that children whose mothers smoke or drink during pregnancy may have a higher risk of ADHD. Children exposed to lead, PCBs, or pesticides may also be at increased risk.
Some studies cite low birth weight, premature birth, or difficult pregnancies as contributors to a higher risk of ADHD. Children who suffer head injuries to the frontal lobe, which controls impulses and emotions, also fall into the higher risk group. Certain studies show that pregnant women exposed to lead, even during childhood, may be more likely to give birth to a child with ADHD. Other studies are exploring the possible connection between premature birth and ADHD.
Researchers think certain toxins interfere with brain development, which might contribute to hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and difficulty paying attention.
Treatment options for ADHD focus on therapeutic and medical options. Therapy focuses on helping a child to learn to control and modify their behaviors, developing systems that help them succeed at home and school, and learning important social skills. Parents too often go to or participate in therapy to learn parenting skills to help the parent-child relationship and to help the child succeed.
Prescription medications can also help to control and moderate behavior and symptoms. The medications are designed to help children focus better so that they can complete necessary tasks in life and in school. Prescription medication use may continue throughout childhood and even into adulthood or might be tapered off as the child gets older and can use other strategies to manage their symptoms.
Women can decrease the risk of their child having ADHD by remaining in good health during pregnancy and even while trying to conceive. A healthy diet, routine doctor visits, and avoidance of alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes reduce the likelihood of ADHD. In fact, mothers who smoke during pregnancy are twice as likely to have children that develop ADHD.
After the baby is born, parents must stay aware of the potential presence of lead or other harmful chemicals in the home. Intervention during the preschool years may mitigate the effects of ADHD. Intervention may include time for creative play, time outdoors, plenty of exercise and sleep, and hiding marital disagreements from the child.