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ADHD


What Is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a medical condition. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and in friendships.

What Are the Signs of ADHD?

All kids struggle at times to pay attention, listen and follow directions, sit still, or wait their turn. But for kids with ADHD, the struggles are harder and happen more often. 

Kids with ADHD may have signs from one, two, or all three of these categories:

Sometimes parents and teachers notice signs of ADHD when a child is very young. But it's normal for little kids to be distractible, restless, impatient, or impulsive — these things don't always mean that a child has ADHD.

Attention, activity, and self-control develop little by little, as children grow. Kids learn these skills with help from parents and teachers. But some kids don't get much better at paying attention, settling down, listening, or waiting. When these things continue and begin to cause problems at school, home, and with friends, it may be ADHD.

How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

If you think your child has ADHD, make an appointment with your child's doctor. He or she will give your child a check-up, including vision and hearing, to be sure something else isn't causing the symptoms. The doctor can refer you to a child psychologist or psychiatrist if needed.

To diagnose ADHD, doctors start by asking about a child's health, behavior, and activity. They talk with parents and kids about the things they have noticed. Your doctor might ask you to complete checklists about your child's behavior, and might ask you to give your child's teacher a checklist too.

After gathering this information, doctors diagnose ADHD if it's clear that:

Many kids with ADHD also have learning problems, oppositional and defiant behaviors, or mood and anxiety problems. Doctors usually treat these along with the ADHD.

How Is ADHD Treated?

Treatment for ADHD usually includes:

The right treatment helps ADHD improve. Parents and teachers can teach younger kids to get better at managing their attention, behavior, and emotions. As they grow older, kids should learn to improve their own attention and self-control.

When ADHD is not treated, it can be hard for kids to succeed. This may lead to low self-esteem, depression, oppositional behavior, school failure, risk-taking behavior, or family conflict.

 

What Can Parents Do?

If your child is diagnosed with ADHD:

What Causes ADHD?

It's not clear what causes the brain differences of ADHD. There's strong evidence that ADHD is mostly inherited. Many kids who have ADHD have a parent or relative with it.

ADHD is not caused by too much screen time, poor parenting, or eating too much sugar.

ADHD can improve when kids get treatment, eat healthy food, get enough sleep and exercise, and have supportive parents who know how to respond to ADHD.

Reviewed by: Shirin Hasan, MD
Date reviewed: November 2017


Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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