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What is ADHD?
All children deserve to feel seen, appreciated, and accepted for who they are. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is commonly diagnosed in children. The National Institute of Mental Health defines attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as “a disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.”1
A Neurodevelopmental Disorder
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is not typically classified as a learning disability, though it can present challenges for children in the classroom. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can make it challenging to stay still and focus. Because of this, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can impact school performance. Different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder exist and can impact life in a variety of ways. One of the most common places for symptoms to be noticeable is in the classroom. ADHD medications and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder treatment are frequently used to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
What Causes ADHD?
There is still more to be learned about the causes of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.2 Currently, it is thought that genetics play a large role. Researchers are considering if environmental impacts, brain trauma, and low weight at birth could all be factors. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder will continue to be researched. There is also lots of discussion surrounding the difference between ADD and ADHD. ADD and ADHD are considered subtypes of the same condition and the same diagnosis, according to the DSM-5.”3 However, ADHD is a more common term than ADD.
Types of ADHD
There are different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and it’s important to be able to distinguish between them.
Those with inattentive ADHD may struggle with becoming distracted and not being able to carry out tasks. They may become sidetracked and struggle with conversations. This type of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms may be dismissed or not recognized as a characteristic of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD often presents as difficulty in remaining still and sitting for long periods. This may appear as impatience. Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD may be more commonly recognized and noticed, compared to inattentive ADHD. Hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are most commonly seen in men, while inattentive ADHD can be found more commonly in women.
Combination type ADHD occurs when at least 6 symptoms from both types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are present. This type of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is less common than others.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms can vary in how obvious they are. Sometimes ADHD symptoms may go unnoticed, as they could be passed off as a personality trait. Some people may be seen as forgetful or impatient when in reality, they have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. However, just because someone exhibits some of these symptoms does not qualify them for an ADHD diagnosis. Individuals must have at least 6 of the ADHD symptoms recognized in the DSM-V.
Inattentive ADHD Symptoms
Some inattentive symptoms include:
- Difficulty with directions
- Trouble paying attention
Daydreaming and becoming distracted often are also symptoms associated with inattentive ADHD. If you know someone with inattentive ADHD, remember to always respond with compassion and understanding. Recognizing the symptoms of inattentive ADHD is important in being able to support others and help them find resources if needed.
Hyperactive ADHD Symptoms
Hyperactive and impulsive ADHD symptoms include:
- The inability to remain still or seated
- The desire to move
- Not being able to focus when remaining still
This can present challenges in the classroom, as many educators are still finding ways to make their spaces accessible for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder students and accommodate their needs. Constant talking, interruptions, and trouble waiting can all be signs of impulsive ADHD. Many parents of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder need to make a conscious effort to remember that their children may struggle in areas that they don’t. For them, remaining patient and calm is important.
While attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder treatment can consist of medication, many other things can be done. Medication can be effective on its own, but it’s best to combine it with other strategies to maximize the recovery potential. Let’s discuss different treatment options by age group.
Just as there are different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, there are a variety of medications available to help in minimizing the symptoms.4, 5 Ritalin and Adderall are the most commonly known attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications. Before beginning a new attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medication, it’s always important to ask your doctor any questions.
If you are on other medications, be sure you’re aware of any possible drug interactions and know the possible side effects that could occur. If your doctor decides against traditional Adderall or Ritalin, then Concerta, Dexedrine, or Strattera may be considered.
Treating ADHD in Young Children (4-6)
For children between the ages of four and six, incorporating the parent can be very important. Making sure parents have access to behavior management training can be extremely beneficial. Through behavior management training, parents can learn more about tools that can be used to support their children. Behavioral classroom interventions can be extremely beneficial for both the child and the learning environment. By equipping a child with the tools they need to succeed in a school environment, their academic and social abilities will most likely improve.
Concerta is typically prescribed for young children. If the child cannot swallow pills, this option may not be the best medication choice for them. Concerta is typically prescribed to children because of its slow release, offering benefits for an extended time. If your child begins taking Concerta and is not reacting well, contact the prescriber and talk about options such as lowering the dosage amount.
Treating ADHD in Older Children (6-18)
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder treatment in those ages six to eighteen years old is similar to the methods previously mentioned. Parent training in behavioral management, as well as classroom intervention, can still be used for effective treatment. Because attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can often be more apparent in the classroom, making sure both the teacher and student have the tools to succeed is of utmost importance. Schools offer many different support systems to students and should work to find the learning situation that works best for each individual.
Medications can also be added to a treatment plan. When considering medication, make sure that it’s FDA approved and will align with any other medical conditions you have. Certain medications will work better for some than others, so it’s important to do research and be honest with your prescriber about your experience. Working to find the right medication and dosage is vital to having an efficient medication routine.
How Professionals Help
How do Educational Consultants Help?
According to Walden University, educational consultants work to “provide guidance to those who seek their service, which can include families; schools, including colleges and universities; and educational organizations.”6 They have a wide skillset and can problem solve in many situations to ensure that the highest quality education is being offered.
When working to address attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, an executive functioning coach and school planning are important components. By improving an individual’s executive functioning abilities, they’ll be able to function at a higher level in the classroom. Skills they may have previously struggled with will become easier.
School planning and guidance is another important service provided by educational consultants. Supporting the educational journey is something that requires compassion, understanding, and knowledge. Consultants can use their knowledge of the education system and what it takes to succeed when working with a student.
If their current educational situation is not ideal, they can work with the individual and their team to find an alternative education environment. This can also include special needs and inclusion consulting so that the student feels welcome and valued in their learning environment.
How Therapists Help
Therapists provide support and are a valuable resource after an ADHD diagnosis. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can help confront struggles. Some therapists can also prescribe medications. Getting a prescription from your therapist is an excellent option, as they will most likely have a detailed understanding of your situation and can prescribe accordingly.
How Case Managers Help
The school environment can be extremely challenging when you’re living with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Finding a school that will offer support and the needed resources will be entirely worth it. Case managers can help in this search and find an environment that will provide the style of education that will offer the most benefit. They can provide representation during IEP meetings and fulfill the advocacy goal within the classroom.
How Parents Can Help with ADHD
Understanding is one of the most important traits for parents of children with ADHD. Many parents know that their child’s experience in school and other environments will be different than the one that they had. Being able to enter situations with compassion and patience will be necessary for maintaining a home environment where your child feels appreciated and welcome.
Carefully observing your loved one and being aware of their needs can help you improve the home environment. Reducing distractions and establishing a healthy sleep schedule can also be incredibly helpful. Prioritizing communication is important for both ends of a relationship. Making sure that boundaries are clearly established and emotions are discussed is important in creating open communication.
More Resources for Parents