This diagnosis refers to a condition in which a person (child or adult) displays extreme levels of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is important to note that these symptoms can occur in varying combinations and form part of a multi-dimensional condition with the symptoms occurring on a continuum. There is no clear cut-off point between normal and abnormal, making diagnosis difficult. Research indicates that boys are more affected than girls and studies show that the incidence of AD/HD in school going children is around 6% - a number that is consistent between different countries, cultures and ethnic groups and has been steady for many years.
There are concerns that it is on the increase as so many more children are being diagnosed with AD/HD. Professionals are looking into this apparent increase in occurrence and general consensus seems to be that, although there is a large amount of information available about AD/HD, many people are being misdiagnosed. It is crucial that assessments are rigorous and detailed in order to correctly identify the symptoms of AD/HD and distinguish them from other conditions. The symptoms of AD/HD can occur in a number of other disorders, such as, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, visual or auditory processing difficulties and stress.
Early identification and intervention are crucial in order to provide the necessary assistance to lessen the effects of the condition. Correctly diagnosed, Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity can be divided into one of three sub-types: inattentive, impulsive or hyperactive and the combined type, who are inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive. In all situations, symptoms should be present for at least six months and should occur in a variety of settings. The symptoms tend to be most obvious in primary school and appear to decrease in the teenage years and adulthood, but, at this age, secondary problems become more evident, specifically, low self-esteem, anxiety or depression.
It is important that AD/HD is treated with a combination of diet, medication, vitamin and/or omega supplements, therapy/counselling, behaviour management techniques and parenting assistance, as well as with academic accommodations.
AD/HD certainly disrupts learning, as problems with sitting still, staying focused, following instructions, staying organised and completing homework are common. However, don’t lose sight of the fact that it comes with a list of positive characteristics too, for example, high levels of creativity, original ideas, a vivid imagination, lateral thinking skills, a sense of humour and a high level of energy.
Parenting a child with AD/HD can be exhausting and it is important for parents to find out as much as they can about AD/HD and to develop a support network. Although no two children are affected in the same way, there are some general tips that would be useful to all affected children.
- Get their attention when talking to them or giving instructions.
- Be positive and tell them what to do, instead of what not to do.
- Make clear rules and stick to them.
- Set up routines as this provides the children with a better idea of what they are supposed to do.
- Boost your child’s confidence with praise and encouragement; they may respond well to a reward system.
- Keep open communication between home and school so problems are quickly identified and dealt with.