Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ADHD and your child - true diagnosis

ADHD, a neurobiological disorder, is estimated to affect between 3-5% of the school aged population.  Though the specific cause of the disorder isn’t known, it is suspected that it is genetically transmitted and may result from a chemical imbalance or deficiency in certain neurotransmitters.  True ADHD is not the result of parenting or choice although parenting and choice can look a lot like ADHD.  Children with unstructured and/or disturbed family lives can display behaviors that appear hyperactive.  Children who are undisciplined at home, and are thrust into the school environment which requires discipline and structure can also appear to have ADHD.  Only a doctor can make a diagnosis, and it can be tricky.
Children with ADHD  may display developmentally inappropriate behavior such as poor attention skills, impulsivity, hyperactivity and forgetfulness.  Usually these symptoms show up prior to age 7 or when a child begins to attend the structured environment of school.  These characteristics are chronic and do not respond to typical disciplinary measures.  Children with ADHD may also have trouble with their peers in the areas of social skills and self esteem.  Typically, difficulty completing homework, lack of organization and forgetfulness are hallmarks of true ADHD.
A changing definition, there are now 3 identified “types” of ADHD.  According to Chris Burke, counselor at The Guidance Center in Franklin, Tennessee, ADHD hyperactive type kids are hyperactive and impulsive but able to pay attention.  ADHD inattentive type kids are primarily inattentive and distracted, but not hyperactive or impulsive.  ADHD combined type kids, the most common form of ADHD, show symptoms from both groups. 
Although medication is often prescribed, and can be a true indicator of whether or not a child is truly ADHD, it isn’t the only option.  Often, it is helpful to teach the child good coping skills, give them plenty of opportunities for exercise and monitor their diets.
Below are some additional tips for both home and school in helping an ADHD child achieve success:
  • Post daily schedules and assignments – use checklists
  • Use a timer for homework assignments and chores
  • Be specific!  About times, expectations, etc. and be consistent
  • Schedule everything and include breaks
  • Teach organization, time management and supplement verbal instruction with visuals
  • Encourage appropriate social activities with others
  • Preferential seating in classroom – near teacher, away from distractions – near more conscientious students
  • Allow student to be an errand runner or some freedom to move about when possible
  • Always compliment appropriate behavior, progress and organization
If you suspect your child is struggling with ADHD, begin with a conference with his or her teachers and proceed from there.  Remember that with true ADHD, the symptoms the teachers are seeing at school shouldn’t be a far cry from what you see at home.  Children with true ADHD have it everywhere they go, so if your child is only having problems at home or only having problems at school, it is not likely to be ADHD.
First published at Nashville Parenting Examiner 
  • is one of the hosts on the Families Matter show at BTR's World of Ink Network. She also works as a middle school counselor and holds a masters degree in education/school counseling as well as being a certified trainer in the "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" curriculum. She is also a certified NLP life coach, business coach, master weight loss coach and social/emotional intelligence coach. Kecia is a published poet, author and songwriter. She has worked in the field of education/psychology for 20 years and has one grown daughter.


  1. If you aren't sure whether your child has a behavioral issue or has ADHD, you might try modifying diet and environment before trying medications. Try the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. The author details proven methods to help kids with attention deficits become more functional. There's more detail at this blog: http://talkingtreebooks.com/blog/?p=103



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