What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder thought to affect 2-5% of all school-age children. ADHD is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.
ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls. However, it is thought that girls may be under-represented in referrals to ADHD services and therefore, ADHD can go unrecognised in girls. There are several possible reasons for why this might be. One theory is that girls tend to present with more inattentive symptoms than hyperactivity (although not always the case) and therefore are not noticed or seen as a problem. The impact of ADHD on girls however, particularly if ADHD is missed, can be significant.
Although ADHD can occur in people of any intellectual ability, it is more common in people with learning difficulties.
What are the causes of ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD is not really known, but the condition has been shown to run in families. (Research shows that both parents and siblings of a child with ADHD are four to five times more likely to have ADHD themselves). Research has also identified a number of possible differences in the brains of people with ADHD compared to those who do not have the condition.
Other factors that have been suggested as potentially having a role in ADHD include:
• being born prematurely (before the 37th week of pregnancy)
• having a low birth weight
• brain damage either in the womb or in the first few years of life
• drinking alcohol, smoking or misusing drugs while pregnant
• exposure to high levels of toxic lead at a young age
The following factors are NOT known causes, but can make ADHD symptoms worse for some children:
• watching too much television
• eating sugar
• family stress (poverty, family conflict)
• traumatic experiences
Why do you need an assessment?
Individuals with ADHD can be very successful in life. However, without identification and proper treatment, ADHD may have serious consequences, including school failure, family stress and disruption, depression, problems with relationships, substance abuse, delinquency, accidental injuries and job failure.
Early identification and treatment are extremely important.
What are the symptoms of ADHD? (Does your child show majority of these symptoms?)
Typically, ADHD symptoms arise in early childhood. According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health -5), several symptoms are required to be present before the age of 12.
The main signs of inattentiveness are:
• having a short attention span and being easily distracted
• making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork
• appearing forgetful or losing things
• being unable to stick at tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
• appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions
• constantly changing activity or task
• having difficulty organising tasks
Hyperactivity and impulsiveness
The main signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:
• being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
• constantly fidgeting
• being unable to concentrate on tasks
• excessive physical movement
• excessive talking
• being unable to wait their turn
• acting without thinking
• interrupting conversations
• little or no sense of danger
These symptoms can cause significant problems in a child’s life, such as underachievement at school, poor social interaction with other children and adults, and problems with discipline.