A Guide to ADHD
“Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” – Michael Jordan, basketball legend with ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic developmental learning disorder that is usually diagnosed in early childhood and can continue through adulthood. Though it is a common condition, ADHD is a complex neurological disorder that impairs executive function capabilities in the brain and requires a professional medical diagnosis. This learning challenge may affect the ability of a child to pay attention, maintain focus, plan, organize, prioritize, self-monitor, understand different viewpoints, and regulate emotions or physical activity.
ADHD can slow the rate at which a child’s brain matures, and can cause several regions of the brain to be slightly smaller on average. As these regions interact with each other, hindrances to one may cause complications in another. ADHD appears to develop from issues in one or more of these areas, which causes learning differences and attention challenges. These differences are consistent but minuscule.
While the exact cause of ADHD is still debated by researchers, studies today point toward genetics as one of the most likely common causes of ADHD. A majority of the medical community believes a gene involved in the creation of dopamine to be a catalyst. Dopamine helps to regulate a person’s executive functions, such as the ability to focus or pay attention. Scientists have found that both children and adults with ADHD generally have a dopamine deficiency.
Many of the symptoms of ADHD can be difficult to recognize at a young age, as they are often typical behaviors of any child. A child exhibiting ADHD must fit several criteria across a broad range of different environments. Signs of ADHD may include:
- Difficulty sitting still
- Excessive talking
- Self-focused behavior
- Quick temper or short fuse
- Emotional turmoil
- Lack of focus
- Trouble staying organized
Even children without ADHD will exhibit a few of these behaviors at some point during childhood, but a person with ADHD will most likely demonstrate most or all of these symptoms in multiple settings and life stages.
ADHD is usually broken down into three distinct classifications:
- Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
- Inattentive Type
- Combined Presentation
Children with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD struggle with impulse control and frequent fidgeting. This behavior generally causes concern and distraction in the classroom and is extremely noticeable. A child with inattentive ADHD has difficulty paying attention and is very easily distracted, but not necessarily hyper. Inattentive ADHD can be difficult to diagnose, as the behavior of this ADHD classification is not typically disruptive or discernible. Children that show significant symptoms ofboth hyperactivity and inattentiveness exhibit the combined presentation type of ADHD.
There is no single, solidified test for diagnosing ADHD. Instead, healthcare professionals rely on several forms of criteria such as CT scans for brain abnormalities, interviews with parents and teachers, child observations, and psychological tests. Using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is the foundation for evaluating mental disorders in children, healthcare professionals can issue a formal ADHD diagnosis with clinical research and observation. The most common treatment of ADHD involves finding a specialist, going to behavioral therapy, attending a specialized learning program, and taking medication over an extended period.
A vast majority of those diagnosed with ADHD are also diagnosed with at least one of many possible related conditions. The most commonly associated conditions are learning disorders, dyslexia, autism, anxiety, depression, Tourette syndrome, and oppositional defiant disorder. These challenges and learning differences can be symptomatic of ADHD but are not always directly indicative.
We can make a difference. Hill Learning Center is dedicated to transforming students with learning differences and attention challenges into confident, independent learners. Contact us if you’re interested in taking the next step.