Social and Emotional Development in Children with Attention Deficits
Attention deficit disorders are neurologically based problems causing a child to manifest inattention, distractibility, and impulsivity, and may occur with hyperactivity as well. In fact, it is often the hyperactivity component that contributes to the earlier identification of the problem in young children. For children who do not exhibit the impulsive/hyperactivity component, diagnosis frequently is delayed until the child is in an academic setting.
It is difficult to diagnose ADHD in preschool children for several reasons. First, most of the diagnostic efforts have been with children from 6 to 12 years of age. Second, children may have other disabilities (e.g., language disorders or developmental delays) that lead them to exhibit inattention or an inability to comply with directions. Finally, some of the symptoms of ADHD may be appropriate behaviors for young children. For example, many young children have difficulty sitting still and paying attention (Steinhoff et al., 2006). In spite of the difficulties, it is important to diagnose and treat children with ADHD early, and preschool children should receive a comprehensive evaluation and be followed closely during that developmental period.
For many children with ADHD, effective treatment begins with parent training and a consistent behavior management program. When that alone is not successful, medication may be considered (Steinhoff et al., 2006). While most ADHD medications are not approved for children under 6 years of age, experience from the Preschool ADHD Treatment Study (Greenhill, Kollins, & Abikoff, 2006) indicates that ADHD medications are effective and safe with preschoolers as well as older children and adults.
The classroom teacher often is part of a team consisting of a physician, therapists, the child’s parents, and other professionals who help decide on the best course of treatment and intervention for young children with ADHD. With early treatment, social and academic outcomes can be positive.
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