ADHD Parent Handout

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD refers to a certain pattern of problems in attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity occurring together. ADHD affects the behavior and development of a child. Three to five of every hundred children have some form of ADHD. ADHD occurs four times more often in boys than in girls. In addition to academics, social skills and friendships are also affected by ADHD. The symptoms can often be treated quite effectively.

What causes ADHD?

The specific cause of ADHD is not known, but research shows that both genetics as well as social and physical environments together cause it. It is thought that if someone in your family has ADHD, it is more likely that you child will have it as well.

How do I know if my child has ADHD or if he is just naughty?

Many young children may be very active and unable to concentrate for long on any one activity. A child only has ADHD if:

  • He has difficulty in paying attention and moves about all the time, causing problems for himself, his family and those around him, like teachers, friends, peers.
  • Some of these difficulties are apparent even when he is very young, usually before age seven.
  • Difficulties experienced are more than what is expected of a child of his/her age.
  • Difficulties are experienced in more than one environment. For example, a child must experience difficulties at school and at home, not just at home or only at school. If he is experiencing difficulties in only one environment, you should look into it because chances are your child has problems with that particular environment and not necessarily have ADHD.

Here is a list of symptoms that indicate that a child may have ADHD (These symptoms are to be used as a guide and if you feel your child exhibits several of these please have a doctor evaluate the child):

  • The child may be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, etc.
  • The child may not be able to commit to an activity and may have trouble focusing.
  • The child may have difficulty paying attention to something they are not very interested in.
  • The child may have difficulty learning something new.
  • The child may need to be given directions many times before he/she listens.
  • The child may daydream a lot.
  • The child may have trouble sitting still or staying calm.
  • The child may talk nonstop.
  • The child may seem like they have unending energy; like they are being run by a motor.
  • The child may have difficulty doing quiet tasks.
  • The child may often interrupt others and have trouble waiting their turn.

What are the types of ADHD?

ADHD can be separated into three categories:

Attention Deficit OR mainly Inattentive type

The child’s main difficulty is inattention as mentioned above. These children are easy to miss as they are not hyperactive, and may be easily dismissed as daydreamers. This type is more common in girls than boys.

Hyperactive-Impulsive Type:

The child shows hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. He may have trouble being calm and appears restless and impatient. In younger children with ADHD, the hyperactivity part seems to be more prominent.

Combined Type:

The child has a combination of inattention and hyperactivity and impulsivity. This is by far the most common form of ADHD.

Will my child have ADHD for the rest of his life?

As your child gets older, it is likely that his ADHD will be easier to cope with. Your child will be able to deal with nearly all of his ADHD symptoms if you give him/her the proper support needed. However, if your child is not well supported, he is at risk for poor achievement in academics; he is also more likely to have social and emotional problems. Engaging in activities independently or doing activities that require him to put in long-term effort, will be challenging. In some cases, these difficulties could continue into the child’s teens.

What other difficulties could my child have?

When someone has ADHD it is very common that they would have a second disorder that affects their functioning. Learning disabilities can occur in half of the children with ADHD, which leads to children having difficulties in performing to their full potential in speaking, reading, writing and mathematics. Oppositional defiant disorder occurs in almost half of the children with ADHD. This is a behavior disorder characterized by testing limits and disobeying and defying. This can be mild or quite severe and interfere with school, home etc. In extreme cases, there could be conduct disorder, in which the child could exhibit behaviors serious enough to be considered harmful – stealing, starting physical fights, bullying others etc. Mood disorders occur in 20 to 30 percent of individuals with ADHD; depression being much more common. A small percentage of kids with ADHD also hav/e Tourette’s (chronic vocal and motor tics).

Are there any medications my child can take to help his ADHD?

There are medications to help ADHD patients. However, it is important to remember that these medications are meant to treat the symptoms of ADHD, and not ADHD itself. The most common type of medication used for treating ADHD is called a “stimulant”. These stimulants will have a calming effect on your child. They will also reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity as well as improve your child’s ability to focus, work, and learn, but one medication that may be right for one child may not be right for another. These medications also come with side effects, the most common being decreased appetite, sleep problems, anxiety, and irritability. Some children have also had mild stomach aches or headaches. Your doctor will ask you about your family history of heart disease and tics (unusual involuntary movements of the face or body) and special precautions may be necessary if you have had family members with these conditions. Your doctor will also want to monitor your child’s growth and blood pressure on a regular basis.

What can I do to help my child?

Understand your child’s condition: The more you know about ADHD, the easier it will be to understand why your child takes forever to get his clothes on or constantly forgets his pencil box at school. The more you understand, the better prepared you’ll be to identify and build his strengths. Remember that your child’s behavior is related to a disorder. Most of the time it is not intentional.

Identify and support your child’s strengths: Parenting a child with ADHD can be so overwhelming it’s easy to lose sight of how wonderful your child is. You’ll enjoy parenting more if you can take breaks from being the teacher, organizer, and disciplinarian once in a while and just play with your child on his level. Remind yourself daily of your child’s strengths, and remind him, too. After all, your child’s strengths are what will take him forward in the long run.

Changes you can make at home and school to help your child: Children with ADHD are more likely to succeed in completing tasks when the tasks occur in predictable patterns and in predictable places. Your can help by creating and sustaining structure in your home, so that your child knows what to expect and what they are expected to do. Children with ADHD need consistent rules that they can understand and follow. Make the rules of behavior for the family simple and clear. They also respond particularly well to organized systems of rewards and consequences. Do your best to focus on giving positive praise for appropriate behavior and task completion, while giving as few negative responses as possible to inappropriate behavior or poor task performance. Reward your child for small achievements that you might take for granted in another child.

You can talk to a counselor about these and other ways in which you can bring about changes to help your child.

Parent support groups and how they help: As parents, you may often feel alone and unsupported. Consider seeing a counselor or joining a support group. It can be comforting to talk to other parents who know what you’re going through. These groups offer a forum for giving and receiving advice, and provide a safe place to vent feelings and share experiences.