Attention Deficit Disorder is the most common psychiatric disorder among children. This disorder affects three to five percent of all school age children, mostly boys (Dreher). Diagnosis of this disorder is not an easy task, but it has been made easier due to symptoms specific to this disorder. Once diagnosed properly, attention deficit disorder can be treated with medications and behavioral therapy. The causes of attention deficit disorder are not easily pinpointed. Not until recently have researchers found possible answers to the causes of this disorder.
A child who has attention deficit disorder often has an inability to pay attention. There are several symptoms that make it easy to tell if a child can not pay attention. Often a child fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork. A child also avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to take on tasks that require mental effort for a long period of time. Being easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds or being forgetful in daily activities are also signs a child may have an inability to pay attention.
Impulsivity and hyperactivity often times refer to the same thing. Just as the first behavior characteristic of attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and impulsivity have symptoms specific to it. A hyperactive child often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in a seat. A hyperactive child usually talks excessively or blurts out answers before questions have been finished. Also, a hyperactive child has difficulty waiting his turn (Dreher).
The diagnosis of attention deficit disorder applies to children who have problems with each of the behavioral characteristics. The symptoms of this disorder must be present for at least six months and start before age 7. Often times this disorder is not diagnosed until the child is 8 years old or older. More boys are usually diagnosed with attention deficit disorder than girls are. Andrew Adesman and Esther Wender say the
estimates of the male-female ratio range from 3:1 to 9:1. Some researchers have suggested that girls with ADHD are less likely to be identified or referred for evaluation because they may display less overtly hyperactive or aggressive behavior in the classroom or school yard. Excessive daydreaming is considered a symptom of ADHD in a girl( Breggin, Barkley).
Once a child is diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, treatment is necessary. Medication is usually prescribed. In some cases, behavioral therapy is ordered. Medications, such as stimulants, seem the most effective in treating attention deficit disorder. The most common drugs prescribed to treat patients are Ritalin, Dexedrine, and
Adderall. Sometimes antidepressants are prescribed for attention deficit disorder (Dreher). Studies show that these drugs decrease impulsiveness, hyperactivity and
aggressiveness. They also improve attention span, gross and fine motor coordination, handwriting, and compliance with adult demands (Adesman, Wender).
There are some side effects that accompany these stimulant drugs. The most common side effects are decreased appetite and difficulty falling asleep. Other side effects include headache, stomachache and behavioral problems. Children who take the stimulant medication occasionally develop a tic or other movement disorder. This usually disappears when the dosage of medication is reduced. In some cases, growth may slow down. This can be minimized by using the lowest possible dosage (Adesman, Wender).
A behavior modification program is often used in conjunction with medication. Andrew Adesman and Esther Wender say:
A number of psychological interventions have been used with ADHS children, including behavior-modification programs, cognitive therapy, and most recently social skills training. Behavior modification is directed primarily at parents of young children with ADHD, teaching them techniques for promoting adaptive behavior and reducing maladaptive behavior. Cognitive-behavior therapy is aimed at school-age children, teaching them self-talk skills for consciously moderating and monitoring their own behavior. Social skills training programs are designed to help
children whose impulsiveness, aggressive tendencies, and inattention to or misperception of social cues make it difficult to maintain friendships.
These psychological treatments have been found somewhat effective, but have not proved to be better than medication. Put together with medication and psychological treatments, and it could be more effective than medicine alone.
Nancy Dreher states, ADD is believed to be caused by a lower level of activity in the parts of the brain that inhibit impulses and control attention. There is a great deal of evidence that ADD runs in families. According to the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association, recent studies show that if one person in a family is diagnosed with ADD, there is a strong probability that another family member could also have ADD. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that Attention deficit disorder is believed to be caused by the same hereditary defect that causes an uncommon endocrine disorder called generalized resistance to thyroid hormone (Time).
Attention deficit disorder is a very complicated disorder to diagnose. Not all people who exhibit the symptoms for the disorder have it. Everyday new research is being done to further the development in medication and causes for the disorder are being discovered. Children who grow up with unrecognized, untreated attention deficit disorder are at a great disadvantage. Their psychological and educational development depends on the proper diagnosis and treatment. With the proper treatment, these children can lead normal lives with little or no interruption (Adesman, Wender).
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