Marked by inattentive and impulsive behavior, attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a relatively new problem recognized only in the past 50 years. Some children with ADD may also be hyperactive. With the right approach and counseling, you can learn how to handle a child with ADD relatively easily.
Children with attention deficit disorder have difficulty focusing on tasks or paying attention for periods of time that would ordinarily be appropriate for their age. A child with attention deficit disorder may be watching television but become distracted by noises or sights that other children would filter out, such as a honking horn or the color of toys lying on the floor.
The exact cause is unknown but it appears that children with ADD have difficulty with the part of the brain that controls concentration and organization. They cannot control, organize and coordinate their actions as others do.
The most common characteristic shared by children with ADD is poor self-esteem. Lack of self-esteem results when the child has difficulty completing tasks or activities that ordinarily would draw praise from parents or teachers.
Other major characteristics of the disorder include short attention span, impulsive actions, restlessness, easily distractible, possible hyperactivity and frequent mood changes. There are many other characteristics that may signal attention-deficit disorder.
Children may have some, but not all of these traits. To some degree, the characteristics of attention deficit disorder are seen occasionally in all children and it can be difficult to determine when the behavior is inappropriate for the age level.
Commonly diagnosed as having the disorder by age 7, children with attention deficit problems often are bright with above-average intelligence. The majority of children with attention deficit disorder can be helped with medication, such as the stimulants Ritalin or Dexedrine.
Medication, however, is only one element of the total treatment plan. The medication “is a crutch, not a cure.” It can help the child complete activities more successfully and can make him more responsive to behavioral approaches by parents and teachers. Children should be evaluated frequently as to how they are responding to the medication.
The mainstay of ADD treatment consists of changes made in the way parents and teachers handle a child with ADD. These changes must help the child learn ways to overcome the attention deficit problems so that he can learn how to complete tasks and therefore build self-esteem.
There’s a lot to handling a child with ADD. Successfully helping a child with ADD requires follow up with parents and teachers, not just a prescription for medication. Parents need to be patient and accepting of the child and find ways to accent his strong points. They can do this by observing his behavior carefully and discovering in which situations he does best.
Punishment of any kind usually does not work with children who have attention deficit disorder. Parents will be more successful if they try to anticipate or prevent their child’s unwanted behavior. Parents should also give their children responsibility at home and praise them for even the smallest tasks.
Parents of children with ADD may be tested to the limit and become frustrated because they feel they can do nothing right. Parents who suspect their child may have characteristics of attention deficit disorder should have the child evaluated by health professionals.
Usually a pediatrician evaluates the child first. The doctor must carefully examine the child and the family situation to determine why the child is inattentive and has difficulty completing tasks. The lack of attention could be caused by a medical problem, a learning disability or some other reason other than ADD.
Diagnosis can be difficult because there are no specific medical or psychological jests to identify attention deficit disorder. Diagnosis is based in part on social and medical histories as well as school reports.
Parents should not hesitate to have their child evaluated for attention deficit disorder. Having an ADD child is not the end of the world. These are wonderful children. They take a lot of work, but with counseling, you should manage.
Diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD)
A youngster must display at least eight of the following characteristics for at least six months prior to the age of 7 years.
• Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat (in adolescents, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
• Has difficulty in remaining seated when required.
• Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
• Has difficulty awaiting turn in games or group situations.
• Often blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed.
• Has difficulty following through on instructions from others, (not due to oppositional behavior or failure of comprehension), e.g. fails to finish chores.
• Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
• Often shifts from one uncompleted activity to another.
• Has difficulty playing quietly.
• Often talks excessively. Often interrupts or intrudes on others, e.g. butts into other children’s games.
• Often does not seem to listen to what is being said to him or her.
• Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities at school or at home (e.g. toys, pencils, books, assignments)
• Often engages in physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences.