WHAT IS ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurobehavioral disorder diagnosis worldwide, affecting over 5% of children. Think of “neurobehavioral” as something happening in your brain that is impacting how you behave.
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF ADHD
ADHD is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of:
There are two main categories of symptoms for ADHD (inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity).
Three kinds of presentations can occur: Combined (enough symptoms from both categories), predominantly inattentive, or predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
A child exhibiting ADHD symptoms may experience negative impacts such as:
• academic and social difficulties (i.e., struggles in school),
• rejection by their peers, and
• challenges making friends.
In addition to these challenges, children at risk for ADHD are more likely to have poor social skills. Because of this challenge, they may be viewed as
• easily frustrated,
Couple that with struggling to cooperate, share, or take turns, and a child’s social life can take a nosedive.
Children exhibiting all symptoms of ADHD may be seen as more likely to start fights and arguments. Not only do children at-risk of living with ADHD struggle socially but they may also have underlying social cognitive difficulties, such as difficulty recognizing social cues like tones of voice and facial expressions.
It is also important to note that there is a form of ADHD that is predominately inattentive. A child living with predominately inattentive ADHD is more likely to be viewed as very shy.
WHAT ARE SOME DIFFERENCES IN ADHD SYMPTOMS BETWEEN BOYS AND GIRLS?
Due to differences in symptoms between sexes, ADHD and comorbidities are more likely to be noticed by parents and teachers in boys than in girls. For example, boys tend to exhibit higher levels of rule-breaking and externalizing behaviors when compared to girls. Also, parents of boys may expect ADHD behaviors to last for a shorter amount of time than parents of girls. As girls exhibit fewer externalizing symptoms compared to boys, girls’ ADHD symptoms and social difficulties may be less noticeable during an intervention. A girl might be off task but just seems to be dazed or daydreaming rather than exhibiting hyperactive behaviors. Without noticing these symptoms, girls may miss parts of an intervention, potentially decreasing its overall effectiveness.
Medication is commonly used to treat ADHD symptoms, but medication alone does not resolve social difficulties. Behavioral interventions may be necessary to improve social problems. An occupational therapist, or "OT," can help children living with ADHD improve a number of skills, including:
Controlling energy levels (whether experiencing hyperactivity or low points)
Improved physical coordination
An improved ability to do everyday tasks -- such as take a shower, organize their backpack, or make their bed -- quickly and well
Why the need for behavioral interventions? Up to 50% of children with ADHD are rejected by their peers, putting them at risk for long-term challenges with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, substance use, employment difficulties, and school failure. When ADHD symptoms are not addressed in childhood, they can prolong into adulthood and even intensify. However, mastering skills, such as emotional regulation, the ability to focus during social interactions, being aware of how others feel, and learning to read social cues, can allow children to better integrate with their peers. The passage of time, may not necessarily improve social challenges associated with ADHD. So, it is important to notice and treat these social difficulties as early as possible to prevent future negative consequences as a child develops.
WHAT CAN I DO AS A PARENT IF I THINK MY CHILD IS AT-RISK FOR ADHD?
Having a parent helping a child with social skills at home may aid in the internalizing of the intervention’s desired learning outcomes. However, in addition it is important to find a behavioral health provider that interacts well with your child. A behavioral health provider will be able to assess your child’s risk for ADHD and other behavioral health challenges and will be able to provide the professional care your child needs.
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