Significant problems with behavior and lack of attention often result in identification as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD characteristically have difficulty focusing on a task, are distractible, behave impulsively, and are hyperactive and disruptive. A sub-group of children lack the hyperactivity component and present as mainly inattentive. Prevalence of this disorder is 2-15%.
These symptoms, however, do not always represent ADHD. They sometimes represent unrealistic expectations for children’s behavior by adults. Also, some children may be developmentally and socially immature, and “grow out” of these problems. Others may be distractible, but function well and learn appropriately. Attention difficulty and excessive activity can be signs of other important problems. “ADHD” then becomes a symptom and not a diagnosis.
Physical problems such as poor learning or vision may interfere with attention. Intellectually challenged children (low IQ) can present as ADHD as can intellectually normal children with language disorders or learning disabilities. Behavior problems (conduct disorders), psychological problems (depression, anxiety) or psychiatric problems (autism) will manifest symptomatically as ADHD. Petit mal seizures and medications (especially anticonvulsants, cough medicines and others) can cause attention and behavioral difficulties. Social and family problems can lead to emotional exhaustion and also manifest as attention deficiency.
Laboratory studies or EEG do not establish the diagnosis of ADHD. Indeed, the cause of the problem must be determined in order to organize an approach to the problem. This will require a cooperative effort involving the child, parents, pediatrician, teacher, and often a psychologist.
Treatment options depend upon the cause of the problem. For a health issue, appropriate diagnosis and treatment is required. Educational interventions and behavior modification may be appropriate and effective therapies. Medications and counseling may be necessary for significant psychological, psychiatric, or social problems. Some children may benefit from stimulant medications (e.g. Ritalin). There is no evidence to support dietary management.
If you are concerned about your child having symptoms of ADHD, please contact us.