ADD or ADHD is not a buzz word. It is a very real and legitimate neurological disorder that appears in various ways and in various levels in children and adults alike. It is a concern of many families. I know that it can get a bad rap and I have heard things like “Oh, that child just need discipline” or “They need to stop making excuses for bad behavior”. No. That is not always the case. Can ADHD be misdiagnosed or even over-diagnosed? Yes. But that doesn’t de-legitimize it for everyone. If you have concerns about your child, you should reach out to your pediatrician to ask for testing. It might not be ADHD but something else.
WHAT IS ADHD?
ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. (It is a misconception that children “grow out of it”. Rather they learn how to adapt and work with it.) Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
You know, it is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. There are many factors for this. The number one being that they are children and learning how to sit still, to listen, to work in a noisy environment, etc. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue, can be severe, and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.
SIGNS OF ADHD
A child with ADHD might:
- daydream a lot
- forget or lose things a lot
- squirm or fidget
- talk too much
- make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
- have a hard time resisting temptation
- trouble taking turns
- have difficulty getting along with others
There are 2 types – ADD and ADHD. They really have the same symptoms and characteristics, but the H – the hyperactivity – means there is a greater level of lack of impulse control.
The causes and risk factors are generally unknown but genetics do play a role. You can often see it follow in family lines. If one parent has ADD/ADHD then there is a strong possibility a child or two might have it too. There are popular views that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, watching too much television, parenting, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family chaos. Research does not support these views. Of course, many things, including these, might make symptoms worse, especially in certain people. But the evidence is not strong enough to conclude that they are the main causes of ADHD. Evidence points to neurological factors, and these can be affected by things like premature birth or birth complications, and perhaps even other factors like fluoride (if there are genetic predispositions to sensitivity). Of course, more research and studies need to happen.
Misdiagnosis can often happen because the symptoms of ADHD can overlap with many other things.
WHAT CAN LEAD TO MISDIAGNOSIS?
Sleep deprivation and gut issues can mimic ADHD.
There is a view that gut issues can cause ADHD. It is true that many, but not all children with ADHD have some gut issues, but it is not enough to correlate that it leads to ADHD. Sleep deprivation most certainly can mimic symptoms of ADHD.
Age can play a factor – younger children can be misdiagnosed often if they start school early. This is another reason not to be pushing children early. Coping mechanisms can mimic symptoms.
Anxiety or ASD can be mixed up with ADHD.
Allergies and Celiacs. Not all allergies cause rashes or swelling. Sometimes it is purely behavioral issues like being distracted, hyperactive or clumsy.
If ADHD is not the cause of the symptoms, they can become worse with the stimulants the doctor prescribes for treatment.
Many people do decide to homeschool a child with ADHD as they can be more flexible with the need to move, switch things up. You can easily switch things around to help your child. Have a mini tramp that allows your child to move while learning. (These can help not only with movement while learning, but also with coordination, as many children with ADHD can have coordination problems.) You can also have exercise balls to sit on. Being home also means that you can change the lesson or shorten it if it is too much at that time. Flexibility is key. I know that there are a number of families that choose to homeschool because they don’t want their child to be medicated. And I get that. The medications can be good but they can also have significant side effects.
ACCOMMODATIONS FOR ADHD
If you have your child in school (public, private or charter) and they have an official diagnosis then they are eligible for accommodations.
These can be things like:
- Flexible seating (exercise ball, etc)
- Quiet area away from others
- Extra time on tests and assignments
- Giving credit for work done, not taking away points for work not done
- Limit the amount of work required
- Provide instructions in a variety of ways, inc written
- Having handouts or outlines provided by teacher
- Behavioral plans
- Allowing fidgets like balls or rubber bands, or even velcro strips under the table
- Allowing time out or time to move
These accommodations usually come through 504 Plans and IEPs – depending on severity. You usually start with requesting a 504 plan. You will need to be an advocate for your child. An official diagnosis means that they are eligible, but you will have to make sure that your child’s school can accommodate and will be able to follow through with the documented plans. Having a plan is great. Having it work is so much better.
Even if your child is not diagnosed until they are a teenager, still go through the process of getting them a 504 plan, as they can follow them through to college. This can be extremely helpful.
I think there are many fascinating things about the ADHD brain. True, it might take them 200 times of hearing the same thing before “getting it” but they also have an ability to see things outside the box. Don’t let their inability to follow along with a conversation frustrate you, but know they are thinking many things at once and perhaps the next great idea is about to come out.