Understanding ADHD in Children: Possible Causes and Symptoms
Updated: Feb 7
What is ADHD?
ADHD means Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that features inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is common in children and symptoms are often present before the age of seven. ADHD doesn’t stop in childhood and often progresses into adulthood. Children with this disorder struggle with staying focused, quiet and coordinated. This disorder cannot be cured but the symptoms can be managed.
ADHD is not often talked about in Nigeria and there is barely any published literature on ADHD despite this disorder being a common one among children of developmental ages and preschool children. However, published reports show that about 1.5% of children in the general population have ADHD.
What Causes ADHD in Children?
The exact cause of ADHD in children has been widely researched and still remains unknown. However, there are suggestions that a variety of biological, environmental and nutrition might have played a role in the causes of ADHD in children.
For example, there is a popular belief that refined sugar or sugar substitutes cause ADHD in children, but research has disproved this fact. Some studies also suggest that smoking and alcohol during pregnancy cause ADHD in children while some researchers strongly believe children with ADHD carry a particular gene. These studies are mostly regarded as myths rather than facts, so the cause of ADHD in children remains unknown.
How Does ADHD Manifest in Children?
ADHD can manifest in children in different ways. This is because ADHD is has three different subtypes namely; Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive.
Children usually have difficulty managing their emotions and paying attention, getting distracted or being impulsive, but in children with ADHD, these symptoms are usually heightened.
Symptoms of Inattention in children with ADHD can include;
They are easily distracted and forgetful
They easily get bored
They have very poor organisational skills
They don't pay attention to details
They have a short attention span
They have poor listening skills
They often daydream
Children with these subtype symptoms might struggle to remember things or fail to focus in class. Their schoolwork might suffer a great deal due to this disorder. Their symptoms might also go unnoticed for a long time.
Symptoms of Impulsivity:
Often acts without thinking or without regard for consequences
Difficulty waiting their turn
Interrupts others in conversations and activities
They are very impatient
Blurt out inappropriate comments
Most children exhibit symptoms of inattentiveness and impulsivity. Children with these symptoms might also come off as rude and arrogant or too forward.
Symptoms of Hyperactivity:
A general state of restlessness.
They are always in motion, which is why they might often fidget or squirm in their seats
They talk a lot and experience difficulty engaging in quiet activities
They experience difficulty staying on a task or might move from one task to another without necessarily completing them.
How Do You Manage ADHD in Children?
The first step to managing ADHD in children is to receive a proper diagnosis. ADHD is common in children and can often be mistaken for other behavioural disorders. This is why a diagnosis should be made by either a child psychiatrist, a paediatrician or a mental health therapist. The road to a full diagnosis usually involves a detailed history of the child's behaviour and activities from parents, caretakers, teachers and psychoeducational testing. Diagnosing ADHD also involves evaluating a series of symptoms from different areas like physical, neurological, and psychological testing. Some tests like intelligence testing or specific skills tests might also be conducted to help rule out other behavioural disorders.
After a diagnosis has been made, treatment can commence.
Treatments for ADHD in children include medication, various types of psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of these treatments will be administered.
In the case of using psychotherapy, education and training to manage ADHD. Parents also need to be actively involved in the treatment plan for ADHD in their children. Parents and mental health professionals need to work together to educate parents on how to cope with children with ADHD. Parents can help their children develop new skills and improve how they relate and interact with each other. Parenting skills training also helps parents learn how to use a system of rewards and consequences to regulate a child's behaviour.
It is also advisable for the family unit to invest in therapy. This will help them understand and find new ways to help them handle the situation better and find alternative means of handling unacceptable behaviour.
To crown it all, parents can choose to seek help and advice from other parents or create a support group where they can talk about issues like this and how they effectively handle the situation. These groups can also serve as an outlet for relieving stress and talking about experiences. It also makes parents feel like they are not alone in this journey.
Using medications to manage ADHD in children is the most common treatment plan. It is important to note that medications do not cure ADHD, however, the symptoms can be managed as long last the medication is taken. Medication is often combined with psychotherapy to achieve better results. The medication used is called a stimulant which produces a calming effect and enables children to be able to focus, work and learn.