Have you ever known this child?
They might struggle to sit still; they might be disruptive in class or struggle to organize their own thoughts. They might be the one in the back of class who gets lower grades because they can’t seem to grasp the details of the assignment, or whose answer on a math test is only wrong because they missed the 1 in 117. Who will easily forget that there is a sticker on their chest and who will stray from conversation because something else caught their eye. This child might have ADHD.
ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is a neurological condition that heavily impacts how the brain functions and is most commonly diagnosed in childhood. Even in cases not diagnosed until adulthood, it is likely the signs still presented in their formative years. There is a strong genetic component to the development of ADHD, and parents who have ADHD are more likely to have children with ADHD themselves. There is not however one single genetic or environmental factor we can link to ADHD.
There are three main ways that ADHD can present, and these symptoms are on-going, disruptive to one’s everyday life and impacts one’s development: Inattention is the inability to keep focus on the things around you, hyperactivity the inability to sit still in any setting and impulsivity are actions which one takes without much or any thought. In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, one must be engaging in these behaviours at all times, with issues in functioning in at least two areas of their lives- home, school/work or socially. Individuals with ADHD usually can’t control the behaviour.
ADHD presents in the brain through a deficiency in the neurotransmitters- dopamine and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers, that pass important messages from one neuron to another in your brain. Dopamine and norepinephrine help with focus and attention, executive functioning such as time management, planning, organizational ability and memory. The deficiency in these neurotransmitters involves impaired function in areas of the brain- the frontal lobe, limbic system, basil ganglia and the reticular activating system. As each area interacts with another, if one area has a deficiency, the impairment will follow through to another area.
To treat ADHD, one must implement a mixture of a variety of approaches including medicine, skills training, counselling, and behavioural interventions to help manage one’s lifestyle. Behavioural therapy can help improve impulsive behaviours as well as executive functioning skills – organization, time management, planning and staying on task. To help manage impulsive behaviours in children, parents can talk to their therapist about implementing parent training. This helps change how parents interact with their children and lead to more desirable behaviours by the children, especially in people who are prone to show their feelings through large, physical displays of emotions. While there is no ‘fixing’ or ‘healing’ from ADHD, the symptoms of ADHD can be managed. Research has shown that a combination of both stimulant medication as well as behavioural therapy work best to alleviate symptoms.
Some Tips for Dealing with ADHD
- Exercise to help manage hyperactivity and inattention, this is best for both adults and children
- When you have to be somewhere, pad your time, giving yourself more time than you think you need
- Do one thing at a time, multitasking can be distracting. Break a large task into many small tasks.
- Try listening to music while you work so you can stay focused
- Create To-Do Lists
- Ensure everything you need on a daily basis has a designated spot or area
- Use reminders or a calendar to prevent forgetting appointments and deadlines
Written By: Alisha Khanduja