Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Understanding the Behavioral Disorder: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Imagine living in a fast-moving kaleidoscope, where sounds, images, and thoughts are constantly shifting. Feeling easily bored, yet helpless to keep your mind on tasks you need to complete. Distracted by unimportant sights and sounds, your mind drives you from one thought or activity to the next. Perhaps you are so wrapped up in a collage of thoughts and images that you don’t notice when someone speaks to you. “Tommy can’t sit still. He is disruptive at school with his constant talking and clowning around.

He leaves the classroom without the teacher’s permission. Although he has above-average intelligence, Tommy has trouble reading and writing. When he talks, the words come out so fast no one understands him” (Rees, 1994). For many people, this is what it’s like to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. They may be unable to sit still, plan ahead, finish tasks, or be fully aware of what’s going on around them. To their family, classmates or coworkers, they seem to exist in a whirlwind of disorganized or frenzied activity. Unexpectedly–on some days and in some situations– they seem fine, often leading others to think the person with ADHD can actually control these behaviors.

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As a result, the disorder can mar the person’s relationships with others in addition to disrupting their daily life, consuming energy, and diminishing self-esteem. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) comes from the standard diagnostic reference of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). ADHD is a diagnosis applied to children and adults who consistently display certain characteristic Understanding ADHD 4. behaviors over a period of time. Hyperactivity has no single known cause and is therefore classified as a syndrome because it has a cluster of symptoms.

It is generally characterized by excessive motor activity, short attention span, and impulsive behavior for a child’s age. The most common behaviors fall into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. According to the DSM, signs of inattention include: becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes rarely following instructions carefully and completely losing or forgetting things like toys, or pencils, books, and tools needed for a task. (Frankovich, 1994) Some signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity are: feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming running, climbing, or leaving a seat, in situations where sitting or quiet behavior is expected blurting out answers before hearing the whole question having difficulty waiting in line or for a turn. (Frankovich, 1994) Under the criteria set by the APA, the diagnosis should include onset of the condition before age seven, lasting at least six months. There should also be a proven absence of mental illness or mental retardation. Parents can remove a huge burden of guilt from blaming themselves for their child’s behavior.

Knowing that scientists are finding more and more evidence that ADHD does not stem from home environment, but from biological causes. In the article ADHD Decade of the Brain, scientists find, “Not all children from unstable or dysfunctional homes have ADHD. And not all children with ADHD come from dysfunctional families” (1990). Some research shows that a mother’s use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy may have damaging effects on the child. Understanding ADHD 5. “These substances may be dangerous to the fetus’s developing brain” (ADHD Decade of the Brain, 1990).

One other theory that is not definite whether it is a definite cause or not is that refined sugar and food additives make children hyperactive and inattentive. As a result, many parents were encouraged to stop serving children foods containing artificial flavorings, preservatives, and sugars. There is no cure for ADHD. While research continues to help scientists understand the underlying causes, treatments have been developed to provide relief of symptoms. Management of the syndrome may involve more than one method. The primary ones are medication, psychological intervention, and diet.

In extreme cases of hyperactive behavior, the physician may prescribe stimulant drugs which affect mood, the thinking processes and behavior. This controversial practice has been used since the 1930’s to control hyperactivity. “The stimulants amphetamines like Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Cylert act on the nervous system, and have been shown to be effective in many studies. The drugs have a calming effect on hyperactive children” (Rees, 1994). Stimulants allow many people to focus and pay better attention, whether or not they have ADHD.

The improvement is just more noticeable in people with ADHD. It is not easy coping with the frustrations of ADHD day after day. Some release their frustration by acting hostile, starting fights, or destroying property. Some turn the frustration into a physical body illness, like the child who gets a stomachache each day before school. Others hold their need and fears inside, so that no one can see how badly they feel.

There are three possible psychological interventions that can help. Psychotherapy, the first of these interventions, works to help people with ADHD to like Understanding ADHD 6. and accept themselves despite their disorder. A second intervention is cognitive- behavioral therapy which helps people work on immediate issues. Rather than helping people understand their feelings and actions, as psychotherapy does, it supports them directly in changing their behavior.

Thirdly is social skills training where the goal is for the to child to learn new behaviors. An example of this is, “A child might learn to “read” other people’s facial expression and tone of voice, in order to respond more appropriately” (ADHD Decade of the Brain, 1990). It is very hard for the parents of a child who is full of uncontrolled activity, leaves messes, throws tantrums, and does not listen or follow instructions. Support groups are often very helpful for the parent’s of a hyperactive child. Many members of these groups share frustrations and successes, information about what works, as well as hopes for themselves and their children. Federal law requires that children with ADD be provided a free and appropriate public education. “Both Public Law 94-142, Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require that school systems make a “free and appropriate public education” available to eligible and qualified children with disabilities”(Legal Rights ). Special education and related services must be made available to any child with a qualifying disability when the disability impairs the child’s educational performance.

Education must include special education and related services specifically designed to meet each child’s unique needs through an individualized education plan (IEP). The IEP must reflect the nature and severity of each disability present and specify aids and services to be provided to meet the child’s unique needs created by each disability. ADHD, once called hyperkinesis or minimal brain dysfuntion, is on of the most common mental disorders among children. It affects 3 to 5 percent of all children, perhaps as many as two million American children. On average, at least one child in every classroom in the United States needs help for the disorder. A child should be evaluated by a physician who will do a thorough physical examination and look for the three primary behavior patterns of the hyperactivity syndrome: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

These characteristics help distinguish hyperactivity from normal behavior, specific learning disabilities, or mental retardation. Physicians and parents have found it useful to combine drug therapy with family counseling, or behavior modification.