Four Ways ADHD Can Rein In Your Child’s Success
Debbie Mccollum’s daughter was 12 years old when her neurologist diagnosed her with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “We immediately began to try to change her behavior and fix her bad habits,” says McCollum. “In the end, we have no idea what her behaviors were that caused the diagnosis, and our family was left to figure it out on our own.”
That’s because neurobiologists don’t know why people are diagnosed with ADHD and its most common symptom, inattention, is diagnosed in kids ages 2 to 6. Research on the origins of the disorder is still in its infancy.
The CDC defines ADHD as a neurological condition characterized by hyperactivity and difficulty focusing. It affects between 3 to 5 percent of the general population in the U.S. And yet the actual number of affected children could be as much as four times higher, says Christine Pomerantz, a psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Of the approximately 6 million children in the U.S. whose attention is inhibited, only about one in 10 is diagnosed, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“When we are diagnosing children from the start of toddlerhood, we are probably interpreting the child in an overly ideal way,” says Pomerantz.
But it’s not just too early to diagnose ADHD, say experts, but too late. Children diagnosed in toddlerhood get the most benefit from treatment and educational interventions. According to research done in a growing number of school districts around the country, many of the kids diagnosed as toddlers have improved by the time they are in kindergarten. That’s a good thing because ADHD occurs in all grade levels and can hinder performance in all subjects.
However, some of the time lost during the development of ADHD can be the same time missed, and can have a corresponding effect on a child’s educational attainment, says Dr. Peter Rubenstein, clinical professor of child psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Every time you take someone’s focus away from them, it degrades their performance,” says Pomerantz. “And yet, we are putting children on a path to earn lower test scores and lower graduation rates for just wanting to be relaxed or to be disruptive.”
How ADHD happens
Researchers believe that the symptoms of ADHD arise from the neurochemical disturbances within the brain that regulate attention and cognitive function. Some of the neurochemical disturbances that generate hyperactivity include dopamine, serotonin, and calcium channels.
Many researchers are now exploring the theories surrounding those disruptions and trying to determine what triggers the symptoms and what the best treatments might be. Knowing more about why children get ADHD could also help the medical community diagnose and treat other neurological disorders.
“Early intervention may be really, really effective in terms of helping people develop their brains and their capabilities,” says Rubenstein.
For ADHD treatment, most experts suggest a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. An in-patient treatment program is also available to facilitate the transitions to ADHD treatment programs that have been set up for kids with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
The good news? The treatments don’t have to be expensive. The research shows they are affordable when using insurance policies that pay for other well-established preventive measures such as regular physical and dental checkups and eating a healthy diet.