Today, it is common to come into contact with someone who has attention-deficit, with or without hyperactivity (ADHD). What do you know about this condition?
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurological disorder that affects a number of children, adolescents and adults in Canada. It is estimated that roughly 5 to 8% of children and 4% of adults are affected by it. The exact causes are not known, but it has been shown that there is often a significant hereditary component (one or both parents are affected by it). ADHD is typically characterized by difficulties with attention, concentration and behavioural management.
ADHD may lower self-esteem and the ability to exchange and interact within family, social, professional and school settings. However, with the advancement of knowledge and treatment measures, more and more people are able to better cope with this disorder on a daily basis.
What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD in children?
If you observe the following behaviours in your child, they may be affected by ADHD and a professional assessment may be needed. The child:
- is easily distracted
- is unable to concentrate for more than a few minutes
- is forgetful
- gives the impression that they aren’t listening to you
- makes you repeat things constantly
- doesn’t remember instructions, especially when there are a string of them
- has difficulty getting organized or completing a task
- talks constantly or tends to interrupt others
- gets sidetracked and doesn’t pay attention to details
- avoids activities or tasks that require effort
Other manifestations can also be observed. ADHD sometimes goes hand in hand with hyperactivity, impulsiveness or aggressiveness. If you are unsure, speak to a school or health professional.
A few myths about ADHD
ADHD is sometimes misunderstood or subject to criticism. The myths surrounding it are numerous. Here are a few:
- "People affected by ADHD aren’t as intelligent as those who aren’t affected by it." Most have completely normal intelligence, some are even exceptionally gifted. However, ADHD sometimes affects their ability to complete their daily activities and their academic performance.
- "My child has ADHD because they have trouble concentrating and their teacher told me so!" You must first have seen a specialist before making such an assumption. ADHD is a recognized disorder that requires a medical diagnosis.
"All children with ADHD should take medication." In certain cases, turning to psychostimulant drugs may be warranted (see below). Drug treatment is one method among others and shouldn’t be considered as the first or the only option.
Use of psychostimulants—making an informed decision
In recent years, there has been increased use of drugs called "psychostimulants" to treat ADHD. However, psychostimulants shouldn’t be viewed as "miracle pills". They don’t cure ADHD, but can reduce symptoms and improve functional abilities. The goal of ADHD treatment must always consist of reducing its daily impact and enable people to reach their full potential.
The decision to take medication is an important one and must be based on thorough analysis of the advantages and inconveniences. Speak to your doctor and pharmacist about treatment issues. The desired effects, side effects, drug interactions, contraindications, precautions and dosage are topics that should be discussed at length. Ask as many questions as needed.
Other treatment modalities
The support provided to people with ADHD can greatly impact the status of their condition. An individual approach based on various types of intervention techniques increases the chances of achieving set objectives. Here are a few examples of measures that can help people cope with ADHD on a daily basis.
- Health practices. Sleeping and eating well, avoiding stimulating beverages, staying active and using video games, internet and television with moderation.
- Occupational therapy. The role of occupational therapists is to help people acquire tools and learn strategies that enable them to maintain their autonomy and improve their daily functional abilities.
- Remedial instruction. Consists of a teaching method aimed at overcoming academic learning difficulties using specific strategies.
- Special education and psycho-education. Using various techniques, it facilitates rehabilitation, social integration and coping skills in a person’s life, academic environment, etc.
- Psychotherapy. Psychotherapists are health professionals that can assess attention disorders. They can also help patients and loved ones to better understand the disorder and reduce its negative impact.
Find out from school staff, CLSC workers or from a treating physician what resources are available to your child. You’ll be glad you took the time to look into it.
If you believe you or a loved one may have ADHD, speak to them openly about it, but avoid jumping to conclusions too quickly. Remember that only a medical assessment can provide a formal diagnosis and the appropriate measures.
Regardless of the age of the persons affected by it, ADHD deserves our full attention. Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about available treatments.