Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children

What is ADHD in children?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) is a behavior disorder. It’s also called attention deficit disorder.
It’s often first diagnosed in childhood. There are 3 types:

  • ADHD, combined. This is the most
    common type. A child is impulsive and hyperactive. He or she also has trouble paying
    attention and is easily distracted.
  • ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive. This is
    the least common type of ADHD. A child is impulsive and hyperactive. But he or she
    doesn’t have trouble paying attention.
  • ADHD, inattentive and distractible. A
    child with this type is mostly inattentive and easily distracted.

What causes ADHD in a child?

The exact cause of ADHD is unknown. But research suggests that it is genetic. It is a brain-based problem. Children with ADHD have low levels of a brain chemical (dopamine). Studies show that brain metabolism in children with ADHD is lower in the parts of the brain that control attention, social judgment, and movement.

Which children are at risk for ADHD?

ADHD tends to run in families. Many parents of children with ADHD had symptoms of ADHD when they were younger. The condition is often found in brothers and sisters within the same family. Boys are more likely to have ADHD of the hyperactive or combined type than girls.

Other things that may raise the risk include:

  • Cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy
  • Exposure to lead as a young child
  • Brain injuries
  • Low birth weight

What are the symptoms of ADHD in a child?

Each child with ADHD may have different symptoms. He or she may have trouble paying attention. A child may also be impulsive and hyperactive. These symptoms most often happen together. But one may happen without the others.

Below are the most common symptoms of ADHD.

Inattention

  • Has a short attention span for age
  • Has a hard time listening to others
  • Has a hard time attending to details
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful
  • Has poor organizational skills for age
  • Has poor study skills for age

Impulsivity

  • Often interrupts others
  • Has a hard time waiting for his or her turn in school or social games
  • Tends to blurt out answers instead of waiting to be called on
  • Takes risks often, and often without thinking before acting

Hyperactivity

  • Seems to always be in motion; runs or climbs, at times with no clear goal except motion
  • Has a hard time staying in a seat even when it is expected
  • Fidgets with hands or squirms when in a seat
  • Talks a lot
  • Has a hard time doing quiet activities
  • Loses or forgets things repeatedly and often
  • Is not able to stay on task and shifts from one task to another without completing any

These symptoms may look like other health or behavior problems. Keep in mind that many of these symptoms may happen in children and teens who don’t have ADHD. A key part in diagnosis is that the symptoms must greatly affect how the child functions at home and in school. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is ADHD diagnosed in a child?

A pediatrician, child psychiatrist, or a mental health expert may diagnose ADHD. To do so, he or she will talk with parents and teachers and watch the child’s behavior. Diagnosis also depends on results from physical, nervous system, and mental health testing. Certain tests may be used to rule out other health problems. Others may check thinking skills and certain skill sets.