Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that affects 5% of all Kiwi children. Its primary symptoms are hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. If left untreated, ADHD can undermine a child socially and academically. Children with ADHD do not simply grow out of it, and in spite of sound parenting and a normal to above-normal intelligence, they will need support learning to adapt to different circumstances in life.
Signs and Symtoms of ADHD
While it is normal for children to occasionally forget their chores, act thoughtlessly, or struggle sitting still, these symptoms in extreme can impede their learning and ability to connect with others. The first step in addressing the issue is to spot the signs. The signs of ADHD will vary between different children, and may be accompanied or masked by symptoms of other disorders. However, certain common signs can be seen; ADHD appears as a mix of inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. In practical terms, children with ADHD may display many or all of the traits below:
- Trouble staying focused.
- Constant fidgeting and squirming.
- Moving around constantly, always “on the go”.
- Making careless mistakes, difficulty remembering things or instructions.
- Talking excessively.
- Being unable to wait for his or her turn in line or in games.
- Often saying socially inappropriate things.
- Being unable to keep powerful emotions in check, i.e. angry outbursts.
- Often acting without thinking.
- Often failing to pay attention to details.
- Limited organisational skills.
- Frequently misplacing books or toys.
Symptoms like these will usually appear before the child reaches seven years of age. However, it can be difficult to tell the difference between ADHD, the symptoms of other issues such as Auditory Processing Disorder, or what may simply be normal childish behaviour. If you spot only a few signs, or they arise only in some situations, it is probably not ADHD. If your child shows a number of the signs of ADHD that are persistent across their home life, schooling and play, it may be time to investigate.
Diagnosis and Treatment
ADHD is usually formally diagnosed by a Paediatrician, with the decision based on an in-depth review of the child’s developmental, social and learning traits. Tests which can be used include psychological tests such as the WISC_R and the Connors Rating Scale. For diagnosis in Wellington, you can contact your GP for referral or speak to the Wellington ADD Assessment and Family Support Centre – click the link or check out their details here:
Wellington ADD Assessment and Family Support Centre
Address: 2 Rhine Street (off Murray Street), Island Bay, Wellington, 6023
Phone: 04 383 5061
A number of medications are available for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, perhaps the most popular of which is methylphenidate (Ritalin). Many parents, however, are reluctant to medicate children who show symptoms of ADHD, so bear in mind that alternative treatments such as Naturopathic medicine can be considered.
The Role of Speech-Language Therapy in Treatment
Children with ADHD tend to need support building social skills and are particularly at risk for communication disorders. A Speech-Language Therapist (SLT) is trained to assess and treat these issues and will contribute as part of a team in creating management programs for ADHD kids. Note that some children with ADHD will also have other learning disorders that affect their speech or language – making it critical to assess every child as an individual. A SLT will work with school teachers to provide customised learning strategies, and if medication is prescribed, they also assist in observing the student’s pre- and post-medication behaviour. Speech-language therapy sessions will focus on language goals tailored to the child, such as teaching better communication approaches in specific social situations, or improving study skills. Again, goals will differ depending on the needs of the individual student.
With caring parents, proactive teachers and the right professional support from Speech-Language Therapists and Paedatricians, Children with ADHD will lead full and prosperous life-styles. Just remember, the earlier an assessment is made, the better the long-term outcomes!