It’s said to be the most common neurobehavioral childhood disorder, and, while pretty much unheard of a few generations back, most know about ADHD nowadays. Why, there’s even an ADHD Awareness Week every October and with good reason.
Indeed, the number of kids so diagnosed is up 33% in the past twelve years, so that today it’s estimated to affect about 8% of our young people. And although no one really knows its cause, some research finds that women who smoke while pregnant can increase the risk, and other studies suggest that secondhand smoke may be a causative factor.
What is known, however, is that children as young as four can now be diagnosed and treated according to updated American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines instead of focusing on kids six to 12 as in the past.
However, determining whether or not your child has ADHD can be tricky since many of the symptoms are exhibited by all children. It’s really a matter of degree, with signs including:
· Having a hard time paying attention
· Seeming not to listen
· Appearing to be in constant motion
· Fidgeting and squirming
· Difficulty staying seated
· Inability to play quietly
Plus, there are three types of ADHD:
1. The Primarily Inattentive Type with such symptoms as making careless mistakes, being unable to sustain attention, appearing not to listen, disorganization, forgetfulness, and being easily distracted.
2. The Predominantly Hyperactive Type with such symptoms as squirming and fidgeting, being constantly on the move, an inability to stay seated for long, incessant talking and interrupting, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity.
3. The Combined Type with symptoms from both of the above two types.
Until recently, though, there hasn’t been one single test for diagnosing ADHD. That’s all changed, though, thanks to Montgomery County’s Bio Behavioral Diagnostics. Says the Plymouth Meeting company’s Byron Hewett, “One of the challenges with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is that it is a subjective assessment by a clinician.” Teachers and parents, too. Not so with the Quotient ADHD System, however. As Hewett notes: “It collects and reports objective, accurate data on hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.”
It works like this: A Motion Tracking System notes each movement 50 times every second and then plots the movement patterns on reflectors placed on the patient’s forehead. During the assessment, a patient reacts to different geometric shapes that flash on a screen and responds by pressing a keyboard space bar.
Best of all–besides Quotient’s objectivity, accuracy and portability–is that results can be analyzed in about a minute.
Once determined, though, the question is how to proceed. For starters, experts agree that kids with ADHD need clear, one-step instructions and that parents should . . .
1. Talk to your child about the disorder.
2. Expect inconsistent performance and not be thrown by it.
3. Not allow the ADHD be used as an excuse, say for not doing homework or chores.
4. Make a chart outlining chores and responsibilities.
5. Institute rules and calmly enforce consequences.
6. Establish set times for such things as meals, homework, play, and bed.
7. Avoid punishing your child when clearly frustrated and/or angry.
8. Put the focus on your child’s strengths.
9. Not be overprotective; instead encourage independence and problem-solving.
10. Avoid being over-controlling.
11. Keep your child’s belongings neatly organized.
12. Praise accomplishments and achievement.
13. Offer positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior.
14. Communicate with teachers regularly and sugggest helpful measures to take in the classroom.
15. Use a 2-sided pocket folder for assignments, so everything gets done and nothing is lost.
16. Insist on an assignment book and, if need be, ask teachers to sign it to ensure accuracy.
However, if your best efforts result in little significant improvement, be sure to consult your child’s pediatrician. Then, if medication is recommended, start with low doses and go from there.