Dr Leena Deshpande – Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder that usually appears in early childhood. It makes it difficult for individuals to restrain their spontaneous responses—responses that can involve everything from movement to speech and attentiveness. The signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD typically appear before the age of seven. ADHD can affect adults too. Dr Leena Deshpande, a developmental paediatrician sheds some light on the topic.
Every once in a while you come across an overactive child. They are unable to sit still even for a moment, don’t follow instructions, are very impatient and just can’t wait their turn. While most young children might display one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean they suffer from the disease.
There are basically three important symptoms of ADHD:
- Poor concentration
Only if a child shows all three symptoms in different environments like school and home, and are unable to control their behaviour are they considered for ADHD diagnosis.
How are ADHD children different?
While it’s true many children are overactive they generally calm down as they grow older and their concentration levels also improve. When this doesn’t happen, it can lead to problems in academic and also social development because these children will have trouble making friends.
Every overactive child isn’t suffering from ADHD though; there are an entire range of psychological and physiological factors that can make children behave like that. If say they are hungry, tired or irritable they may behave like they’re overactive and have trouble concentrating. To diagnose ADHD a child has to undergo a series of medical tests which will assess his or her history to see if they suffer from the disease.
For starters, children with ADHD should show all the aforementioned symptoms for a period of at least six months in different environmental settings like the playground, home and school. If a child is normal in school and overactive at home, then the chances that he/she has ADHD are low.
What causes child to be overactive?
One problem is inconsistent parenting. Behaviour as we see it is a combination of nature vs nurture. Some children are inherently overactive while others aren’t. Good parenting skills are required to deal with such children. However, it must be made clear that bad parenting can’t cause ADHD. But if a child with the condition isn’t handled carefully the symptoms might worsen. Parents need to set boundaries and limits for all children.
Early and excessive exposure to electronic media like mobile phones, televisions and computers can be detrimental for your child. Many, many studies show that these devices have a negative impact on a child’s communication and socialisation skills. Television and other electronic media provide passive stimulation which stifles creativity. It’s believed that the brain of a young child gets used to this passive stimulation from an electronic device and they find that normal life doesn’t match up in the excitement stakes. This is when they start acting up to create a situation which is more exciting. This is why I tell all parents that TV shouldn’t be used as a substitute for a babysitter or a parent.
How common is ADHD?
Roughly 8-10% of all children of school-going age suffer from mild, moderate or severe ADHD. There’s a problem with attributing a proper number because ADHD is one of the most over-diagnosed and under-diagnosed diseases around. In areas where there’s awareness, a lot of normal kids are wrongly diagnosed with the condition while in areas where there’s no awareness many kids with a genuine ADHD condition are branded mischievous or troublesome and punished for their ‘misdeeds’.
Here are some common myths about ADHD
Myth: ADHD affects only boys
Fact: This is a common misconception. The condition affects girls as well though in girls Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is more common and hyperactivity is rarer.
Myth: Medication is enough to cure ADHD
Fact: Medicine for ADHD works like any common medicine like paracetamol. While the medication is working it keeps the effects of fever at bay, similarly a child’s concentration only improves for that period of time. There is no cure for ADHD.
Myth: Bad parenting can cause ADHD
Children with ADHD actually have an imbalance of brain chemical. While bad parenting isn’t the cause of the disease, if a child isn’t handled properly his/her symptoms might worsen.