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ADHD and Challenging Behaviour

What is ADHD?

Although awareness of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has grown over the last two decades, it’s still not well understood by the general public, and subject to many myths. Simply put, ADHD is a brain disorder, marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

ADHD (previously known as ADD) may begin in early childhood and can continue into adulthood. In fact, it’s now believed that about 5% of young people have ADHD, with a higher incidence in boys (10%) than girls (4%). Adding to the complexity, there are three subtypes of ADHD. Best known is the hyperactive/impulsive type, where kids display disruptive behaviors. There’s also an inattentive type, which is less disruptive but equally challenging, and a combined version, with both sets of symptoms.

Without treatment, ADHD can cause problems at home, at school, at work and with relationships. And despite the best of intentions, teachers and parents often lack the tools and skills to help kids with ADHD.

What are the Symptoms of ADHD?

As with many disorders, there is no single test to diagnose ADHD. Instead, it’s a multi-step process, where a clinician looks for characteristic symptoms that are long-lasting, impair the child’s functioning, and cause the person to fall behind normal development.
ADHD symptoms can appear as early as between the ages of 3 and 6 and can continue through adolescence and adulthood.

Symptoms of the hyperactivity/impulsivity type include:

  • Fidgeting
  • Difficult sitting
  • Running about
  • Difficulty playing quietly
  • Talking excessively
  • Blurting out answers/questions/comments
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn
  • Interrupting or intruding

Symptoms of the inattentive type include:

  • Difficulty attending to details in school work
  • Difficulty maintaining attention in tasks or play
  • Difficulty listening
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Losing things
  • Forgetfulness

ADHD often is accompanied by other conditions, such as learning disorders, anxiety disorders, depression disorders, oppositional defiance disorder, substance disorders and tic disorders.

ADHD Effects

Untreated ADHD can have serious consequences for a child’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. Physically, brain maturation rates are different in kids that have AD/HD. The sequence of the maturation is the same, but certain regions of the brain mature two to three years later than in typical children.

In adolescents, ADHD leads to deficits in executive control, which can be a significant source of impairment. Issues include an intense focus on the present and immediate gratification. It’s also hard for teens with ADHD to anticipate the consequences of their actions. Youth with ADHD often engage in more risks, and have a high sense of invulnerability, overestimate their skills and display higher sense of individuality (“I’m not like other people”).

Unfortunately, children and adolescents with ADHD experience serious social difficulties with both their peers and adults. They are often perceived as rude, intrusive and immature; they are less likely to pick up on social cues and have difficulty with personal relationships. And because parents, teachers and peers aren’t aware of how the disorder impacts a young person, their unmet expectations can deeply affect the youth’s self esteem.

Relaxation Techniques to treat ADHD

For parents and teachers, it is important to consider the “disability perspective” when dealing with children and youth who have ADHD. The young person is not being difficult on purpose. Instead, he or she has a very real brain disorder, which leads to cognitive and emotional development differences, and lie at the root of ADHD’s often-vexing symptoms.

The good news is that ADHD can be treated with a wide range of proven therapies. Those treatments include: behavior management techniques, adapting the child’s environment, parents adopting more realistic expectations, and exploring and understanding the disability perspective.

The most effective tactic is often a family approach including both parents and children—as well as the school— in treatment. Medication can also be helpful, and its use in children and youth with ADHD has been well studied. In addition, a psycho-educational assessment is very helpful in understanding the youth’s strengths and weaknesses, and brining to light any learning difficulties.

Hope to Understand and Manage ADHD

While there is no cure for ADHD, currently available treatments can help reduce symptoms and greatly improve functioning. Indeed, with help, millions of young people diagnosed with ADHD have matured into healthy adults, leading productive lives.

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