What is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is a developmental condition that begins in early childhood. It is the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder in Australia, affecting 1 in every 20 children. ADHD symptoms tend to present early in childhood. To be diagnosed with ASD, these symptoms must be present before the age of 12. There are three ways that ADHD can present for children, being: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, or combined.
Inattentive ADHD generally sees children as being easily distractible or inattentive. They may find it difficult to pay attention in class or when engaging in activities that require continuous mental effort such as homework. They may frequently miss instructions or relevant information, which may result in children with inattentive ADHD frequently starting but not finishing tasks. Children with inattentive ADHD often are easily distracted by external stimuli, experience mind-wandering or daydreaming, and are frequently interrupted by unrelated thoughts.
Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD sees children as being hyperactive and/or impulsive, as stated in the name. This could result in children being persistent movement seekers, whether that be constant fidgeting or squirming, or leaving their seat in class. They may also talk excessively, talk over others, or blurt out answers without waiting for their turn to speak. Children with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD may interrupt conversations, games, or activities, whilst also having difficulty playing quietly or waiting for their turn. These children often respond quickly to situations without thinking about the possible consequences and also participate in more risk taking or dangerous behaviours. Children with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD tend to choose a smaller instant reward rather than waiting to receive a larger, more significant reward later. These children with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD often find boredom intolerable and are constantly seeking stimulation.
Combined ADHD sees children having a mix of the symptoms and characteristics of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD.
Causes of ADHD
Unfortunately, there is no single or exact cause of ADHD that is known to us at this point in time. However, studies have shown that ADHD symptoms are related to the biology of the brain. It is thought that genetic and environmental factors can interact to cause the changes in brain development and function. From a neurophysiology point of view, people with ADHD have differences in brain anatomy, electrical activity, and metabolism. Research also shows that ADHD often runs in families, however researchers are yet to find out which genes are directly involved. Further, both drug use during pregnancy and lack of early attachment are linked to symptoms of ADHD.
So, What Does This All Mean?
You may be in information overload if you have reached this point of the blog, after reading all the different ways in which ADHD can manifest and all the potential different causes of ADHD. However, we can break this down together.
All three forms of ADHD may leave the child being viewed as a disobedient, naughty child, whether that may be in the home, pre-school or school setting. However, it is important to remember that often a child with ADHD cannot control these behaviours. They are simply the symptoms of the child’s disorder that arise from their inability to inhibit and regulate their attention, behaviours and emotions, to reliability recall information in the present moment, to plan and problem solve, and to self-reflect, self-monitor, and self-soothe. Medication can be absolutely life changing for children with ADHD, and we recommend speaking with your child’s GP or Peadiatrician about this. Occupational Therapists at Stepping Stones for Therapy can also help teach your child to manage their symptoms and engage in life in meaningful way.
Role of Occupational Therapy for Children With ADHD
Our team at Stepping Stones can assist your child in many ways to reduce the impact of the symptoms of ADHD that they experience on a daily basis through the creation an individualised therapy plan specific to your child’s needs. We can achieve this by developing your child’s executive functioning skills, as well as their ability to self-regulate. Both executive function and self-regulation are important and crucial skills to assist children with ADHD thrive in all life settings.
You can find out more about Stepping Stones or make an inquiry at http://www.steppingstonesforchildren.com.au
ADHD Australia. (2019). ADHD in Children.
Health Direct. (2020, September). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Author: Divya Parsotam
Paediatric Occupational Therapy Assistant
Editor: Michelle Newby BHSc(OT) MSc PhD Candidate
Paediatric Occupational Therapist
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