Healthy Kids Summer 2022

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatments for the common condition All About ADHD HOT TOPIC


ccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 6.1 million kids in the US have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, one of the most common neurodevelopmental conditions in children. Though the cause of ADHD is currently unknown, the effects are many. ADHD has been linked to higher incidences of mood disorders like anxiety and depression, as well as learning disabilities, problems at home and at school, and a whole host of detriments if the condition is left untreated into adulthood. There are three types of ADHD, explains Lauren Gist, MD, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Rady Children’s. Kids with the first, the inattentive type, struggle with attention and focus, have difficulty concentrating, are forgetful, and have trouble completing tasks and following directions. Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD can present as excessive energy and restlessness, not thinking before acting and challenges in the school setting. There’s also the combined type, which most people with ADHD have, meaning they show symptoms of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. Many children may present symptoms of ADHD, but that doesn’t mean all who do necessarily have

can have all the symptoms, but if they’re not causing a problem, then it’s not a disorder.” Most of the time your child’s primary care doctor can diagnose ADHD and make treatment recommendations. Kids with more complex presentations can also be evaluated by developmental pediatricians, psychiatrists or at Rady Children’s developmental evaluation clinic. A big part of treating ADHD is behavioral management in the home, says Dr. Gist. A specific technique called parent-child interaction therapy is especially effective in younger children. Children with ADHD tend to do well if they have some type of motivation, so a token economy system, for instance, might help: They earn tickets once they finish a task that they can use toward a prize or another kind of reward system. With the right accommodations, kids with ADHD can achieve their academic goals, too. Behavioral health conditions are becoming less stigmatized, though a structured school setting may be challenging and your child may need to learn differently. Multisensory learning is important, as is having a distraction-free area for studying and tests and, if needed, extra time for or modified assignments. “Structure matters,” says Dr. Gist. “Because a lot of children with ADHD struggle

it. Dr. Gist says that to be considered a disorder, the behaviors the child is exhibiting must cause dysfunction. “It really is about how much symptoms interfere with functioning,” she says. “You

with internal structure, often that has to be external, and then when

they’re young, often that has to be environmental. Parents or teachers have to help with that.”

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