Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (page 2)
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavior disorder characterized by a pattern of attention problems, hyperactive behaviors, and/or impulsive behaviors that are more frequent and severe than what is typical for a child/adult of the same age. ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood behavior disorders. Approximately 7.8% of children ages 4-17 are diagnosed with this disorder.
Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, with approximately 11% of boys ages 4-17 having the diagnosis, but only 4.4% of same-aged girls. Although symptoms of ADHD can be present in children as young as 2-3 years old, it is most commonly diagnosed in the elementary school years when the demands of school expose the problem. The most common age of diagnosis is seven years old.
In most cases, symptoms of ADHD continue through early adolescence, but begin to subside in late adolescence and adulthood. However, some individuals continue to experience mild to full-blown symptoms of ADHD well into adulthood. Approximately 4.1% of adults ages 18-44 have a diagnosis of ADHD.
The following is a list of signs associated with ADHD (American Psychological Association, 1994). Keep in mind that ADHD is not an "on-again, off-again" style of behavior. A good rule of thumb is that a person must display several of these behaviors for 6 months or more before a diagnosis of ADHD is considered.
1. Fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
2. Has difficulty maintaining attention in tasks or play activities.
3. Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
4. Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to a failure to understand instructions or a refusal to follow directions or requests on purpose).
5. Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
6. Avoids or dislikes tasks that require longer periods of mental effort (such as schoolwork, homework, challenging board games, etc.).
7. Loses things needed to complete tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
8. Is easily distracted.
9. Is forgetful in day-to-day activities.
1. Fidgets with hands or feet, or squirms in seat frequently.
2. Leaves seat in classroom, theater, church, or other places or situations where most children can remain seated.
3. Runs about or climbs all over furniture in inappropriate situations (adolescents or adults may simply report feeling restless much of the time).
4. Has difficulty playing or participating in leisure activities quietly.
5. Seems as though they are "on the go" or are "driven by a motor."
6. Talks unusually fast or virtually nonstop at times.
1. Blurts out answers before a question is finished.
2. Has difficulty waiting their turn in games, in line, or in other activities.
3. Interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).
When is it Considered ADHD? (A Note of Caution)
Poor attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior are quite typical for many young children. Unfortunately parents, teachers, and even health professionals are often too quick to label a young child's erratic, but normal, behavior as an indication of ADHD. It is important to keep in mind that children's ability to focus, remain still, and not act on impulse increases as they age, so what is considered normal for a younger child might be problematic for an older child.
Mental health professionals commonly look for five basic pieces of information when diagnosing ADHD.
1. Does the child/adult display several of the signs and symptoms of ADHD? Displaying a few signs of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity is not enough.
2. Are these behaviors normal for the child's age and developmental level?
3. Have they been having similar problems for a long time (at least 6 months, and must begin during childhood)?
4. Are they showing symptoms of ADHD in more than one setting? Kids with ADHD have behavior problems in school, at home, at friends' houses, etc. If they are just having problems in one or two places, it is likely that parents, teachers, or caretakers just need some extra help in learning how to manage this child's behavior
5. Are these behaviors hurting their ability to perform at school, work, home, or in other social settings? Some people can be "hyperactive" or "inattentive" at times. However, the behavior doesn't become a "clinical problem" unless it seriously impacts their abilities in these areas.
There are different variations of ADHD. Some people have the type called "primarily inattentive," which means that they may not show a lot of problems with hyperactivity or impulsivity, but have difficulty focusing and concentrating. For other people, most of the difficulty is with hyperactivity and impulsivity, but there are little to no problems with attention. The majority of cases are called "combined type," which means that there are significant problems both with attention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Florida. © 2008 University of Florida.
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