How many times have you wished for just one trip to the
supermarket without your child running around, knocking things down
and impulsively putting items into the shopping cart?
Do you dread homework time, hoping that just once your child
will complete it without becoming distracted, bored and finally
frustrated? Every time your teenager leaves the house, do you
constantly worry about his choices because he never seems to think
It could be ADHD.
ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and it
affects about 3-5 percent of school-age children. It is a
biologically based disorder with a genetic link in families and is
not directly related to parenting, stress or sugar. There are many
different chemicals in the brain and when these chemicals are not
in balance, difficulties with attention, organization and
self-control occur. In other words, when your child says they can't
sit still, they really can't.
There are three different types of ADHD: inattentive,
hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. Children with primarily
inattentive ADHD often have trouble focusing on details and
frequently make careless mistakes. They have difficulty finishing
work or doing things that require concentration. They are easily
distracted by noises or things happening around them.
Children with primarily hyperactive ADHD often appear fidgety or
restless. Some children have impulsive symptoms and have difficulty
waiting their turn. They struggle to think before acting, which can
lead to accidents or risky behaviors.
Occasionally all children and adolescents may exhibit
inattention or hyperactivity, but children and teens with ADHD act
this way more often and with more intensity when compared with
other children of a similar age. Their behaviors negatively impact
academic performance, self-esteem, family relationships and social
interactions. It is important to note that ADHD symptoms vary among
children and can change in different settings like home, school and
social situations. Symptoms typically begin early, before age
Getting an accurate diagnosis of ADHD is critical. Once the
diagnosis is made, there are three options for treating ADHD:
medication without behavioral modification therapy; therapy without
medication; and the most effective option, medication and therapy.
Medications (both stimulant like Ritalin and non-stimulant like
Strattera) act to restore the chemical balance in brain cells.
Combining medication with therapy helps kids learn strategies to
manage symptoms and cope with the negative consequences of their
actions and choices. Family therapy can also be important because
it encourages parents and siblings to develop useful strategies for
interacting with someone with ADHD.
Neurotherapy (or neurofeedback) is an intervention that can be
used as an alternative to medication. In neurotherapy, children
learn to concentrate and motivate themselves.
Here are five tips for managing ADHD symptoms:
Children and teens with ADHD truly want to do well in school and
have friends, but their symptoms interfere. The best news for
parents is that with appropriate treatment, children with ADHD can
learn to manage their symptoms and live successfully.
Dr. Alfreda Grosrenaud, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, is
the mother of two teenage boys. She is the medical director of
outpatient psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago and has a
private practice in Kenilworth. She can be reached at
Dr. Lisa Thornton, a mother of three, is director of
pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and
LaRabida Children's Hospital. She also is assistant professor of
pediatrics at the University of Chicago. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Lisa Thornton, a mother of three, is director of pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and LaRabida Children’s Hospital. She also is assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
See more of Dr. Thornton's stories here.
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