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Cook Children's

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Kids with ADHD act without thinking, are hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. They may understand what's expected of them but have trouble following through because they can't sit still, pay attention, or attend to details.

Of course, all kids (especially younger ones) act this way at times, particularly when they're anxious or excited. But the difference with ADHD is that symptoms are present over a longer period of time and occur in different settings. They impair a child's ability to function socially, academically, and at home.

The good news is that with proper treatment, kids with ADHD can learn to successfully live with and manage their symptoms.

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What is ADHD?

ADHD used to be known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD. In 1994, it was renamed ADHD or, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood.

ADHD broken down into three subtypes, each with its own pattern of behaviors:

Although it can be challenging to raise kids with ADHD, it's important to remember they aren't "bad," "acting out," or being difficult on purpose. ADHD is a true medical condition that affects how your child thinks and processes information.

The good news is, with medication or behavioral therapy or, in some cases—both, kids with ADHD can better control their behavior.

Who gets it?

ADHD is a common behavioral disorder that affects an estimated 8% to 10% of school-age children. Boys are about three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with it, though it's not yet understood why.

What causes it?

ADHD is not caused by poor parenting, too much sugar, or vaccines. It does have biological origins that aren't yet clearly understood. No single cause has been identified, but researchers are exploring a number of possible genetic and environmental links. In fact, studies have shown that many kids with ADHD have a close relative who also has the disorder.

Although experts are unsure whether genes are a cause of the disorder, they have found that certain areas of the brain are about 5% to 10% smaller in size and activity in kids with ADHD. Chemical changes in the brain have also been found.

In terms of environmental factors, research also links smoking during pregnancy to later ADHD in a child. Other risk factors may include premature delivery, very low birth weight, and injuries to the brain at birth.

What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD?

Your child's symptoms will be related to the type of ADHD he or she has.

Predominantly inattentive signs may include:

Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive signs may include:

Combined inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive

Diagnosis

Children mature at different rates and have different personalities, temperaments, and energy levels. Most children get distracted, act impulsively, and struggle to concentrate at one time or another. Sometimes, these normal factors may be mistaken for ADHD. ADHD symptoms usually appear early in life, often between the ages of 3 and 6, and because symptoms vary from person to person, the disorder can be hard to diagnose. Parents may first notice that their child loses interest in things sooner than other children, or seems constantly "out of control." Often, teachers notice the symptoms first, when a child has trouble following rules, or frequently "spaces out" in the classroom or on the playground.

Because there's no single test that can easily confirm that your child has ADHD, your diagnosis depends on a complete evaluation. to gather information about the child, and his or her behavior and environment. Your doctor will first try to rule out other possibilities for the symptoms. For example, certain situations, events, or health conditions may cause temporary behaviors in a child that seem like ADHD. Kids who have experienced a divorce, a move, an illness, a change in school, or other significant life event may suddenly begin to act out or become forgetful. To avoid a misdiagnosis, it's important to consider whether these factors played a role in the onset of symptoms

First, your child's doctor will perform a physical examination and take a medical history that includes questions about any concerns and symptoms, your child's past health, your family's health, any medications your child is taking, any allergies your child may have, and other issues.

Your doctor may also check hearing and vision so other medical conditions can be ruled out.

Because some emotional conditions, such as extreme stress, depression, and anxiety, can also look like ADHD, you'll likely be asked to fill out questionnaires to help rule them out.

You'll be asked many questions about your child's development and behaviors at home, school, and among friends. Other adults who see your child regularly (like teachers, who are often the first to notice ADHD symptoms) probably will be consulted, too. An evaluation, by one of our neuropsychologists may also be done.  

Related Problems

One of the difficulties in diagnosing ADHD is that it's often found in conjunction with other problems. These are called coexisting conditions, and about two thirds of kids with ADHD have one. The most common coexisting conditions are:

If your child has ADHD and a coexisting condition, the doctor will carefully consider that when developing a treatment plan. Some treatments are better than others at addressing specific combinations of symptoms.

How is ADHD treated?

ADHD can't be cured, but it can be successfully managed. Your child's doctor will work with you to develop an individualized, long-term plan. The goal is to help a child learn to control his or her own behavior and to help families create an atmosphere in which this is most likely to happen.

In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication and behavior therapy. Any good treatment plan will require close follow-up and monitoring, and your doctor may make adjustments along the way. Because it's important for parents to actively participate in their child's treatment plan, parent education is also considered an important part of ADHD management.

Sometimes the symptoms of ADHD become less severe as a person grows older. Hyperactivity tends to get less as people grow up, although the problems with organization and attention often remain. More than half of kids who have ADHD will continue to have symptoms as young adults.

Medications

Several different types of medications may be used to treat ADHD:

Medications can affect kids differently, and a child may respond well to one but not another. When determining the correct treatment, the doctor might try various medications in various doses, especially if your child is being treated for ADHD along with another disorder.

Behavioral Therapy

Research has shown that medications used to help curb impulsive behavior and attention difficulties are more effective when combined with behavioral therapy.

Behavioral therapy attempts to change behavior patterns by:

Here are examples of behavioral strategies that may help a child with ADHD:

Request appointment

We are here to help.

If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. Call our offices at: 682-885-2500 to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff.

 
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