Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that affects 5% of all Kiwi children. Its primary symptoms are hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. If left untreated, ADHD can undermine a child socially and academically. Children with ADHD do not simply grow out of it. Despite sound parenting and being gifted with normal to above normal intelligence, they still need support learning to adapt themselves to different circumstances in life.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
While it is normal for children to occasionally forget their chores, to act thoughtlessly, or to struggle sitting still, these signs in extreme can impede their learning and ability to connect with others. The first step in addressing these difficulties is to spot the signs. The signs of ADHD will vary between different children and may be accompanied or masked by symptoms of other disorders. However, certain common signs are visible. In practical terms, children with ADHD may display many or all of the following traits:
Trouble staying focused.
Constant fidgeting and squirming.
Moving around constantly, always “on the go”.
Making careless mistakes, difficulty remembering things or instructions.
Being unable to wait for his or her turn in line or in games.
Often saying socially inappropriate things.
Being unable to keep powerful emotions in check, i.e. angry outbursts.
Often acting without thinking.
Often failing to pay attention to details.
Limited organisational skills.
Frequently misplacing books or toys.
Symptoms like these will usually appear before the child reaches seven years of age. However, it can be difficult to tell the difference between ADHD, the symptoms of other issues such as Auditory Processing Disorder, or what may simply be normal childish behaviour. If you spot only a few signs, or they arise only in some situations, it is probably not ADHD. However, if your child shows a number of the signs of ADHD that are persistent across their home life, schooling and play, it may be time to investigate.
Diagnosis and Treatment
ADHD is usually diagnosed by a Paediatrician, with the decision based on an in-depth review of the child’s developmental, social and learning traits. WISC_R and the Connors Rating Scale are two of the psychological tests used in the diagnosis. Contact your GP for a referral.
A number of medications are available for treating ADHD, the most popular among them being methylphenidate (ritalin). Many parents, however, are reluctant to medicate children who show symptoms of ADHD. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that naturopathic medicine can also be a suitable method of treatment.
The Role of Speech-Language Therapy in Treatment
Children with ADHD need support to build their social skills. They are particularly at risk for communication disorders which makes the process even harder. Some children with ADHD also have other learning difficulties that affect their speech or language. This is where the role of the Speech-Language Therapist (SLT) becomes important.
An SLT is a trained professional who assesses and treats these issues. They contribute as part of a team in creating management programs for children with ADHD. An SLT will work with school teachers to provide customised learning strategies. If medication is prescribed, they also assist in analysing the individual’s pre- and post-medication behaviour.
Speech-language therapy sessions focus on achieving language goals tailored to each person. Teaching better communication approaches in specific social situations and improving study skills are two of these goals. Again, goals may differ depending on the needs of the individual.
The earlier an assessment is made and necessary treatments are done, the better the long term outcomes will be. With caring parents, vigilant teachers and the right support at the right time from Speech-Language Therapists and Paediatricians, children with ADHD can also lead happy and fulfilling lives!