ADHD or Not???
In 20 years of working with families, this is one of the most common self-diagnosed issues I have faced. Parents have received information from unprofessional sources and determined their child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder. I, myself, was told my two year old toddler robust boy had ADHD when he jumped on the back of the pew and hung off after three hours of sitting through Sunday service. He had contained himself as much as possible with his truck, crayons and book. As we were preparing for the benediction, he kicked those tight shoes off his chubby feet and hung by his arms to swing from the pew. I politely peeled his fingers from the pew to sit him down. A lady next to me quietly whispered, “Looks like he has ADHD.” I politely – well not quite – and said, “He’s 2!” I never shuddered, never thought twice, and never considered he had ADHD even after she felt the need to give her two cents because he was a toddler boy who had been sitting through church for three hours. Heck, I have a hard time sitting through church so I knew what a challenge it was for him.
So, what I will do here is discuss some of the symptoms which are often attributed to the disorders and provide some suggestions on how to eliminate them to determine if a person has ADHD or not. It’s not a guaranteed measure but it will help to specifically look at some areas to adjust prior to concluding a diagnosis of ADHD/ADD.
SHORT ATTENTION SPAN:
- Does the child get enough sleep at night? Children grow fast and absorb a lot of information in a day. They require more sleep at night to recover both physically, emotionally, and mentally. When an adult is fatigued, they find it difficult to concentrate on daily tasks. Why do people underestimate how much of an effect this has on children? Even when kids get to high school, they require between 10 and 12 hours of sleep to recover. One of the reasons more youth are believed to have ADHD is because there are very little, if any, opportunities for corporate napping. Children are expected to keep the pace all day, sometimes well into the evening with extracurricular activities.
- Was the child trained in any environment prior to entering formal schooling? Preschools and daycares are a free for all, as they should be, in terms of structured activities. The children are allowed to explore their environment in a loosely organized manner. Time schedules are there but they are allowed to go from center to center, play station to play station, computer terminal to computer terminal as long as they operate within the boundaries. As they get older, they are expected to sit for long periods of time depending on the next classroom environment. At home, fewer families have sit down meals to gradually introduce young children to a mildly stimulating environment. Fewer families watch television together so young children can run and jump while watching television – and all the while changing the station. They are not softly guided into focusing on any one thing for an extended period of time. I can hear people saying but my child will watch television for hours. The issue with that is, there are very few youth programs which maintain a scene for more than two minutes. The characters are in and out of the frame or the entire scene changes.
- Unfortunately, children experience stress, depression, and anxiety just as adults. There are multiple causes for this which is far too extensive to discuss in this article. However, children may not exhibit the same symptoms of these disorders as adults. It will require the parents to understand how the symptoms manifest; low academic performance, no interest in fun activities, frequent conflict with family members and peers, high levels of nervousness regarding activities, feelings of inadequacy, and more. A child who has emotional issues will become easily distracted because they are looking for a release from the feelings they are experiencing.
- When emotional issues are present, the child may feel overwhelmed. This can be paralyzing and impede concentration efforts.
PROBLEMS AT HOME:
Youth will require time to master the art of compartmentalizing (many adults have yet to do so). Therefore, whatever is happening at home, will manifest in the youth’s daily activities. Some youth deal with it my being the class clown; some by falling asleep; some by being aggressive; some by overachieving. As a parent, assess how the home operates before concluding ADHD is the problem for a child’s symptoms. Sometimes, the family will require someone from outside the family to evaluate how much of an impact the movement has on the youth.
Classroom management is a nationwide problem which experts are continuously addressing. However, it is rarely taken into account when assessing a child for ADHD/ADD because no one wants to look at the school system corporately and address the long-term effects it may have on the child’s behavior. However, distractions lead to more distractions. If a classroom or school is not properly managed, a child will easily latch on the chaos finding it more and more difficult to concentrate.
Questions I ask parents before I will consider assessing a child for ADHD:
- What is the bedtime and morning routine? If a child is not getting at least 8 hours a sleep, I start there.
- What are the eating the eating habits of the child and the family? If a child is not eating properly, develop a nutritional plan to reduce the sugars and non-nutritionally valued food.
- What is the school routine including extracurricular activities? If the child has none, suggest an outlet to help release the physical energy. If the child has too many, look at reducing some of them to one per season.
- What is the homework routine? What is going while the child is doing homework and who is monitoring? If there is not a routine, develop a specific plan for homework completion.
- How many nights a week is the family out of the home? Reduce the amount of nights the family is out late to maximize time in the evening to prepare for the next day and get a better night of sleep.
- What type of quality time is shared between the parent and the child? This encourages the parents to have more input into their child’s life than just time focused on school work, chores, and other responsibilities. This helps the child to know they are valued and reduces the anxiety, sadness, and anger the youth may be experiencing.
When you seek help, seek it with an open mind. Ensure you are prepared to manage the contributing issues as well as assess the symptoms exhibited by the child. If a child is given medication for either of these disorders and does not truly suffer with the disorders, there will be little to no improvement. Be diligent to ensure the child receives the correct treatment and not just any treatment.