At Little Steps, one of our goals is to keep parents informed of any types of disorders that children might have. We aim to promote knowledge, understanding, and discussion to help parents who may face such situations.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common disorders occurring in little humans and teenagers that can also continue into adulthood. It is characterized by difficulties with concentration, focus, and attention which may lead to difficulties with memory, behavior and physical and psychological organization.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Adler, the director of the Adler Family Centre in Hong Kong. He is a licensed psychologist in the US and received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Yale University. Below we recap some of the key points of that interview to give you a better understanding of ADHD, its treatment and steps parents can take at home and school.
What are the key symptoms:
ADHD with a predominance in attention and concentration - The typical symptoms are that your child will have great trouble staying focussed, whether in the classroom or doing their homework. A child will often find it very hard to finish a task or even stay focussed listening to their parents, their teachers or their peers. These symptoms tend to persist in the individual as they grow older.
ADHD with a predominance of hyperactivity - A common symptom is impulsiveness, being hyper, not being able to sit still for even a brief period, and constant fidgeting. These types of symptoms tend to decrease as the child grows into their adolescence.
However, there are also children who exhibit all of the above symptoms, with varying levels of predominance...
All the symptoms can be seen in any child, hence it can be difficult to say with certainty whether your child has ADHD. A key element to take into consideration is the age of a child. If you have a toddler at home aged 2 to 4, it is normal for the child to be somewhat hyperactive for example.
A pivotal thing to ask yourself when becoming concerned if your child could have ADHD is whether their behavior is interfering with their day to day life. For example, is it interfering with their social life (family, friends, teachers), or is their behavior interfering with their tasks (homework, chores)?
Accurate diagnosis is crucial, but it is difficult, especially for children as they are constantly evolving. Doctors will formulate their diagnosis on what they observe, and the symptoms of ADHD can also often be related to anxiety or sometimes depression. No diagnosis should be given within 15 minutes because observation is key.
Ideally, the psychiatrist/psychologist/counselor will sit down with the family and discuss what symptoms they are worried about. From there, he/she might observe them in a school setting since the problems are often most visible there. Diagnosis tends to take around 2 weeks. It is essential to do your research and find a qualified psychiatrist/psychologist/counselor that you and your child feel comfortable with.
What should the treatment for ADHD include and does it include medication?
If a family decides to see a psychiatrist, it is possible that your child will receive medication. When a child cannot function at home or school, and they are suffering because of it, medication can be the right course of action.
A non-psychiatric approach is to use the diagnosis method as mentioned above and consider using different strategies with the counselor's guidance that can be implemented in the classroom, at home, and during their sessions.
Typical medication for ADHD usually involves the prescription of a stimulant. This might seem paradoxical, but when it comes to ADHD, it often has a calming effect that helps one focus better.
The age when a child is prescribed medication also varies depending on the psychiatrist. It can be prescribed as young as one, but the typical age to start medication would be around 4 to 5. Teens who have ADHD are often also prescribed antidepressants, which also works effectively for ADHD.
If parents are reluctant to have their child take medication, there are alternatives that you can discuss with your psychiatrist. One such possibility is the introduction of a strict regimen that can be adopted at home, a schedule that becomes predictable and gives a well-needed structure for the child who has ADHD.
It is also important to be transparent and inform your child why these methods are adopted, how it will benefit them and how crucial it is that the family works as a team.
Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD will have the common issue of not being able to cope with any distraction. As a parent, you can provide quiet places at home as well as altering their room in order to minimize distractions so they can do their homework.
At school, some children with ADHD will also need such a space for doing exams, experiments or other occasions where a child's full attention is required. Thus, it is important to discuss this with your school if your psychiatrist suggests this to be an option.
Adler Family Centre
Suite 404-405, Stag Building
148 Queens Road Central, Hong Kong
+852 9386 5104