What is ADHD?
There a many reasons for children to show these behaviors but one of the first steps for parents would be to check with others about their observations. It is important to know whether these behaviours are more common in your child than are seen with most other children. Teachers and day care staff can often provide helpful comparisons with other children. Remember that at an early preschool age, it is developmentally normal for children to have shorter attention spans and more impulsive behaviour. Therefore, age and comparison standards with other children are important in judging these behaviors.
If comparisons still suggest more difficulties than other children or the parent still has unanswered questions about the observations, then the observations and questions can be reviewed with the family physician. This can start a process of further investigations. Often the unstated question in the minds of parents is “Does my child have attention deficit disorder?”
Signs and Symptoms
Children may show difficulties focusing and restless behaviour for many reasons other than attention deficit disorder. These include: presence of a learning disability, recent stress in life (e.g. separation or loss of a family member, recent trauma), other illnesses (anemia, thyroid difficulties), hearing or vision impairment, substance use disorders, adverse effects of medication, sleep problems, movement disorders and in certain environments such as boredom in a very high functioning child. Family doctors and other professionals can help determine what is happening for you and your child. This will usually require a careful history, the use of questionnaires, a review of previous reports from child care and school settings and a physical examination. An assessment may mean further investigations and consultations to arrive at a complete understanding of which single or combination of causes appear to explain the behaviours in your child. It is important diagnose and treat all disorders and diseases, including attention deficit disorder.
For attention deficit disorder treatment may include further reading and resources to understand the diagnosis, training in child management strategies such as Incredible Years classes or Strongest Families, strategies to use in the school setting and, usually, stimulant medication. Medication is the single most effective treatment and gives the child a firm foundation to help them manage their attention, activity levels and impulse control. Once children can focus better and become less impulsive and hyperactive they are able to do better in school, with peers and within the family. The child builds competence and confidence. Stimulant medication has been in use for over 75 years and is among the most widely studied medications of all medications that are used for any reason with children.