Understanding Childhood ADHD – Symptoms, Behaviors & Causes
The acronym ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder (ADD). It has become quite a common condition among children as well as a source of concern and controversy among parents.
Children with diagnosed ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating. They can’t seem to follow directions with ease and are easily bored and often frustrated with tasks. They also tend to move or fidget constantly and are very impulsive in their actions.
It would be simple to assume that any of these behaviors are common in children and are of no concern whatsoever. Nevertheless, a myriad of symptoms that present themselves in unison, consistently seem to point to ADHD rather than to a case of a merely spirited youngster.
Oftentimes, the symptoms occur more frequently than usual and are more severe in a child with ADHD. These behaviors are so insidious that they interfere with the child’s ability to function at school and at home.
Symptoms of ADHD are generally grouped into three main categories: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
When inattention is a problem, the child is very easily distracted. He or she is unable to follow directions at all or to properly follow them in an organized sequence. As a result, tasks are left unfinished.
The child also appears to not be listening when spoken to directly. He or she will make careless mistakes over and over and will appear frustrated or contrary. Even in the case of daily activities, he will need reminders constantly and will struggle to stay organized. He will express dislike for activities that require sustained effort and will prefer to remain in his own world or daydreaming.
Hyperactivity is another hallmark behavior found in children with ADHD. The child often squirms, fidgets or bounces when sitting and has difficulty playing quietly with toys or games. He or she is always moving around, sometimes running or climbing on things unaware of the danger.
In school situations, the child does not remain seated when expected to do so. He talks excessively and out of turn without understanding how to take turns.
Impulsivity can be found in almost every diagnosed case of ADHD. It can be a source of frustration not only for the child but also for those around him. Besides not waiting for his or her turn during activities or games, the child blurts answers or comments at odd times during a conversation or while the teacher is talking. He or she interrupts others but dislikes being interrupted himself. Not understanding that impulsive behavior is often interpreted as rudeness by others, the child feels undeservedly reprimanded.
Although the exact cause of ADHD is not known, researchers continue to study the brain for answers. Researchers believe that there are several conclusive factors that contribute to the condition. These are:
- Heredity: ADHD seems to run in families. This fact suggests a strong genetic predisposition. Thus, children may inherit a tendency to develop ADHD from their parents.
- Chemical imbalance: Experts believe that an imbalance of certain substances essential in communication between nerve cells called neurotransmitters, may be a factor in the development of ADHD.
- Brain changes: It has been documented that areas of the brain that control attention are much less active in children with ADHD than in children without the disorder.
A variety of other factors may also contribute to the development of ADHD. In many cases, poor nutrition, certain prenatal infections and substance abuse (including cigarette and alcohol) during pregnancy seem to be triggers since they can affect the development of the baby’s brain.
Later in childhood lead exposure can also affect brain development and may lead to ADHD symptoms. Of course, injury to the brain due to an accident may trigger ADHD symptoms as well.
Medicine Net, “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)” http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=42948 Accessed September 14, 2011.
Web MD, “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: What Is ADHD?” http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd Accessed September 14, 2011.