Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as defined in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), is a disorder of childhood onset and is characterized by symptoms of inattentiveness and hyperactivity-impulsiveness.
Children with ADHD demonstrate a variety of behaviors and challenges, which must be present in at least two settings, i.e., school and home, in order to meet criteria for the disorder. In other words, if your child is having problems at school, but not at home, it would be imperative to learn the dynamics of the classroom and consider what your child’s individual learning style before the consideration of ADHD. It would also be helpful to psychoeducational testing if there is concern that he or she may have a learning disability.
ADHD is believed to affect up to 5% of school age children. Of course, there is great variability in the disorder, as the level of impairment may range from mild to severe and be moderated by psychosocial factors. In addition to deficits in school performance, there are many other associated problems seen in patients with ADHD who are not properly treated. These include: the inability to form positive peer relationships, increased likelihood of serious injuries, greater problems with frustration tolerance, and language and memory impairments.
Scientific studies have shown that those suffering from untreated ADHD are 3 to 4 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, starting with tobacco use 2 to 3 times earlier than non-affected peers.
Stimulants are the first class of compounds reported as effective in the treatment of hyperactivity and disruptive behaviors in ADHD. Up to 70% of patients respond to stimulants, which have been used in pediatrics since 1941. However, not all children can tolerate the side effects of these medications, and not all parents are comfortable with the notion that their child requires medication. Regardless of whether or not a child is on medication for ADHD, there are additional measures that may be helpful in improving home and school functioning. These include social skills training, private tutoring, and parent guidance training. Parents should be aware of the ways to set up an effective study environment for their child and learn about the benefits of establishing good parent-teacher communications.
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