Dr Miriam Stoppard's Health Focus Today: ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER - Kids Who Are out of Control

The Mirror (London, England), August 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

Dr Miriam Stoppard's Health Focus Today: ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER - Kids Who Are out of Control


Byline: Miriam Stoppard

ATTENTION deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a growing problem affecting six to 16 year olds. It causes uncontrolled, sometimes violent behaviour, and ruins concentration. Latest figures show 69,000 school-age children in England and Wales have ADHD - that's about one in 100.

BRAIN scans of children with attention deficit disorder differ from those who don't have ADHD.

So it is a true organic condition and shows up as a combination of three main behaviour problems:

Hyperactivity.

Impulsive behaviour.

Short attention span.

Children with these tendencies find it hard to concentrate on lessons or fit in at school.

They get into trouble because they act on impulse and parents find them exhausting because they are never still.

But mums and dads should take heart - the symptoms of ADHD (also known as ADD) are nothing to do with bad parenting.

How a diagnosis is made

A CHILD psychologist or paediatrician must make a careful assessment. Diagnosis can be difficult because:

THERE IS no test for ADHD; a blood sample or an X-ray can't make a firm diagnosis.

ALL children have some problems with self-control so it's hard to decide where to draw the line and diagnose ADHD.

OTHER problems can result in behaviour similar to ADHD - for example, language or hearing difficulties, dyslexia and major disruptions in a child's life. More than half of children with ADHD also have problems such as these.

ADHD is likely to be diagnosed if eight or more of the following symptoms are persistently present in a child before the age of seven:

DIFFICULTY sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.

BEING easily distracted.

NOT seeming to listen.

SHIFTING from one uncompleted task to another.

LOSING things necessary for tasks.

INTERRUPTING or intruding on others.

HAVING difficulty awaiting turn in games or group situations.

BLURTING out answers to questions.

DOING physically dangerous activities without considering consequences.

TALKING excessively.

DIFFICULTY playing quietly.

TROUBLE remaining seated.

FIDGETING or squirming in their seat all the time.

DIFFICULTY following instructions.

TEACHERS ARE ON ALERT

THE sooner a child is assessed, the sooner his or her needs can be met.

Teachers usually have no difficulty spotting a child who is disruptive or unable to sit still, but the reasons for this behaviour aren't always clear.

It's important for teachers to know whether there are medical conditions or social problems which may be affecting the child's behaviour.

And if children have attention problems but are not overactive, there's a risk their difficulties may go unnoticed for some time. …

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