ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a medical/neurobiological condition in which the brain’s neurotransmitter chemicals; noradrenalin and dopamine do not work properly.
It is a disorder that, without proper identification, treatment and management, can have serious and long-lasting consequences and/or complications for an individual.
It is a genetic and long-term condition which affects learning and behaviour right through the school years and in many cases beyond into adulthood.
ADHD is a disorder that can co-exist to a greater or lesser degree, with any or other disorders such as dyslexia, autism, learning disorder, dyspraxia, conduct disorder, oppositional defiance disorder.
It is important to note that ADHD is a very treatable condition. If diagnosed and properly treated, people with ADHD can reach their potential and lead happy and successful lives.
What are the Core Behaviours of a Child with ADHD/ADD?
ADHD/ADD is usually described as being made up of three core behaviours:
- Predominantly inattentive type – problems of attention, distractibility, short-term memory and learning.
- Predominantly hyperactive type – impulsive, poorly self-monitored behaviour.
- Combined type – most children with ADHD/ADD fall into this category.
- Easily distracted
- Flit from task to task
- Slow to complete school work and forget instructions.
- Inattentiveness can be confusing because of its selectivity. The child who is extremely inattentive while doing schoolwork may be fully focused when playing video games, carrying out practical procedures or when being tested by a psychologist.
- Inattention to verbal instructions and a short-term memory are also associational problems.
- “Shooting from the hip” both verbally and physically.
- They talk over the top of others
- Tend to be accident-prone and have very short fuses
- Answer questions in class even before the question has been completed.
- Act without malice but also without forethought, which leads to problems in the playground
- Do not learn from the consequences of their behaviour
- The volatility of these children makes them prone to escalate out of control when their behaviour is handled insensitively.
- Often teachers and parents cannot understand why someone so intelligent can act so inappropriately.
- In primary school they are restless, they fidget, have difficulty remaining seated and find it hard to stop talking.
If they manage to stay seated, they fiddle with anything they can touch, tapping their fingers / feet, and looking around at everyone.
In the playground, they act like they have been released from captivity.
When they return to the classroom, they find it even more difficult to settle back in.
- In secondary school
Some retain the high level of physical activity.
Many will be able to remain seated for the 40-minute class and generally their hyperactivity seems to have lessened.
They are generally still noisier and more talkative than their peers. The fiddling, scribbling and touching everything can also remain at quite a high level.
The combination of hyperactivity with impulsiveness makes children with ADD/ADHD very difficult to manage.
What problems can ADHD cause?
ADHD can cause a range of problems that can vary from child to child. The following are common among all children with ADHD:
- They often seem to forget things almost instantly.
- They fail to finish what they start or don’t do it at all.
- They often seem to be driven like a motor; as a result they can be demanding in class and even behave dangerously when outside.
- They may seem thoughtless, selfish and rude, so they are often unpopular with other children their age.
- Low self esteem
- Social clumsiness / poor social skills / relationship problems
- Emotional over-arousal
- Poor coordination
- Poor time management
- Specific learning difficulties
- Motivation difficulties
Is there a different effect on boys and girls?
ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls. This may be because boys with ADHD tend to be more hyperactive and disruptive. Girls can have ADHD but may have predominantly Inattentive Type and can often appear to be in a world of their own. Their symptoms may not be noticed because they don’t disrupt the class; however, their problems can lead to academic and social failure.