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IDENTIFYING ADHD

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by Pramod Narula, M.D.

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My 10-year old son is having problems concentrating in school, and his teacher suggested that he might have Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.  How can I tell if he really has ADHD, or if he’s just acting up?


   ADHD is a common condition that’s characterized by difficulty paying attention, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity. Between 3 and 7 percent of school-age children have ADHD.
  
   While it’s normal for children to sometimes be distracted in the classroom, a child with ADHD experiences prolonged inattention to the point where it becomes challenging for him to accomplish daily routines like household chores. Other symptoms of ADHD are poor organizational skills, continual restlessness, a tendency to interrupt other people during a conversation, forgetfulness, inability to follow directions, and constant fidgeting.  Some children with ADHD even have trouble making friends or participating in after-school sports because it’s hard for them to stay focused on a conversation or activity for an extended period of time. When a child is struggling with any of these issues outside the classroom, it’s possible that the cause may be ADHD, rather than disinterest in his schoolwork.
  
  If you suspect that a child does have ADHD, there are various professionals who are qualified to diagnose this disorder, such as school psychologists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, nurse practitioners, neurologists, psychiatrists and pediatricians. In order to rule out any physical problems that might impair a child’s capability to concentrate, a physical exam that involves the assessment of hearing and vision is crucial.
  
  Certain types of medication, such as methylphendidate, dextroamphetamine, and atomoxetine, are used to treat ADHD. These medications work by increasing chemicals in the brain that are associated with attention, learning and memory. Only a medical doctor can advise if medication is necessary and prescribe medication.      
  
  In addition to seeking the guidance of a medical professional, it’s good to meet with a teacher or a school counselor to discuss any type of adjustments that can be made to the classroom so it’s easier for the child to focus. Administering tests in a quiet place or providing extra time to complete a test, as well as giving the student a copy of any directions or assignments that were administered that day, can help. Behavioral interventions, such as teaching strong problem solving or communication skills, can also enable a child with ADHD to do well in the classroom.  


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