ADHD in kids

May 18, 2021

ADHD in kids

During childhood, most children exhibit high-energy behaviors, daydreaming, or impatience at some stage during their development. However, if your child can never sit still, repeatedly struggles to pay attention, or frequently shows impulsive and often inappropriate behaviors, they could have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that often first appears in childhood and continues into adulthood, and is sometimes referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). 11 percent of American children between the ages of 4-17 have ADHD and the average age for ADHD diagnosis in kids is 7 years old, with boys being 3 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with the condition.

When their ADHD is undetected, children often get wrongly labeled as the class clown, troublemakers or lazy, but this is due to a lack of understanding about the condition. There is also a stereotype that all kids with ADHD are exceptionally hyperactive, however not all children with ADHD will display all potential symptoms, and symptoms can affect children to varying degrees.

Signs of ADHD in kids

Signs of ADHD in kids can present as early as the age of 2, however, symptoms can vary depending on the type of ADHD your child might have. ADHD exists on a spectrum of severity (mild, moderate, and severe) and types of ADHD are categorized into three profiles:

Predominantly inattentive. Mainly showing behaviors associated with inattention. 

Predominantly hyper-impulsive. Mainly showing behaviors associated with hyperactivity and impulsiveness. 

Combined. Showing both a mix of inattentive and hyper-impulsive symptoms.

As we mentioned, most children will show behaviors such as excitability, disinterest in doing schoolwork, or being fidgety and impatient, so you may be wondering when does this borders on ADHD? Let’s break down the types of behaviors children might display within each category.

Symptoms of predominantly inattentive ADHD

When children have inattentive ADHD their difficulties lie with paying attention and organization. Children with this type of ADHD find it very challenging to concentrate on tasks they find boring, lack attention to detail, and struggle to follow instructions. This may often cause them to zone out in class or avoid completing their homework. Most children with inattentive ADHD find it much easier to focus on a task when they enjoy the subject matter. 

So, children with inattentive ADHD:

  • Get easily distracted and struggle to focus on tasks they find disinteresting;
  • Have trouble or staying organized;
  • Have difficulty following instructions;
  • Lack attention to detail;
  • Often lose or misplace things;
  • Are forgetful.

Symptoms of hyper-impulsive ADHD

This type of ADHD comprises two behaviors, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Hyperactivity is a common sign of ADHD. Although children are usually fairly energetic, children with ADHD are full of energy and constantly on the go. 

Children with hyperactivity usually:

  • Run around or climb on things uncontrollably;
  • Struggle to sit still;
  • Relentlessly fidget;
  • Talk excessively;
  • Are loud and struggle to do things quietly.

Impulsive behavior describes behavior where a person doesn’t think before they act. Children with impulsivity lack self-restraint and usually:

  • Interrupt conversations;
  • Invade the personal space of others;
  • Act without thinking (on impulse);
  • Shout out answers in class or as inappropriate questions;
  • Struggle to control strong emotions such as anger.

A lot of these symptoms of ADHD can take their toll on parents leaving them feeling exhausted and worried about how to control their child’s behavior. If this sounds familiar, receiving a diagnosis is the course of action you need to take and a step in the right direction to getting the help and advice that you and your child need. 

ADHD tests for kids

If your child has presented multiple symptoms for the past 6 months in various settings, their behavior is impacting their education and you suspect they could have ADHD, we recommend that your child has an assessment and formal diagnosis. Assessments for ADHD are not simple medical checks but comprehensive evaluations conducted by medical specialists. It is also worth noting that online tests do not constitute a diagnosis of ADHD, the diagnostic assessment happens face-to-face. 

So how do you get the ball rolling? There are a few things you can do (as a legal parent or guardian of a child) to start the diagnosis process:

📱Make an appointment with a specialist - A number of medical professionals conduct assessments for ADHD, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists. To start the process you can either do your research for reputable specialists and book an appointment directly with them, or first book an appointment with your doctor who can refer you to a recommended specialist. The specialist will then assess your child based on ADHD criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

🏫 Let your child’s school know - It’s important to notify your school that you intend to have your child assessed for ADHD since they may need to be involved in the process or provide information to the specialist about your child. For instance, if your child attends a public school in the US it is a legal requirement that the school district assists you in obtaining an ADHD diagnosis.

🗣️ Be your child’s spokesperson - It’s important to remember that you are the person who can initiate the improvement of your child’s life at home and school by starting the process. The sooner you seek help the sooner your child will receive it. Your voice is very important in enabling your child’s future success, telling the specialist all of your concerns will help them build a full picture and help recommend access arrangements for your child's education and treatment for their condition. 

Treatment of ADHD in Children

Once your child receives a diagnosis of ADHD there are various treatment options that might be suggested, but ultimately it is for you to decide which treatment or combination treatments might suit your child best. Some treatments options for ADHD include the following:

💊 Medication - Stimulant medications (psychostimulants) are commonly prescribed to treat ADHD symptoms in children. There are two types of medication, immediate-release, and long-acting release, both of which balance neurotransmitter levels in the brain to improve inattention and hyperactivity, but require different doses. While studies have found that medication improved symptoms of ADHD in 80% of children once they found the right medicine for them, some drugs can cause side effects which is why it’s important to discuss with your practitioner the best option for your child. 

👪 Parent training behavioral therapy - Behavioural therapy is also an effective method to treat ADHD in children. Behavioral therapy is most effective in young children when it is delivered by parents. The therapist will provide parents with various strategies to help change their child’s behavior including reward systems, routines, and timeouts.

🍏 Diet - Diet for ADHD kids is very important. Following an ADHD nutrition plan for your child can really help reduce symptoms. For instance, foods high in protein such as chicken, beans, nuts, and low-fat dairy products can have a positive effect on the communication of neurotransmitters in the brain and can reduce high blood sugar levels which can cause hyperactivity. With this in mind, you really want to reduce your child’s sugar intake as this will only fuel the fire of their hyperactivity and impulsivity. Additionally, introducing vitamin supplements such as zinc, iron and magnesium to your child's diet will also help to regulate dopamine production in the brain. 

Toys for kids with ADHD

Selecting the right games for children with ADHD is also a good way to work on their behavior and build important skills they may find challenging, such as social skills and patience. Toys and games can also bring out the positive traits of ADHD such as creativity. 

🧠 Attention games - Games that encourage your child to focus are perfect for building their attention. Depending on their age, board games and chess are good options. 

🤝‍ Turn-taking games - As we have learnt, children with ADHD struggle with patience and social skills. Playing turn-taking games with your child such as Jenga or Ker-Plunk is a great way for them to practice patience.

🎨 Arts and crafts - Arts and crafts is an effective hands-on activity for children with ADHD as it stimulates their creativity, can lower anxiety, and encourages focus. 

🏗️ Toys for building - Toys such as Lego also encourage children with ADHD to use their creativity and imagination to build a structure or product. 

How Speechify helps kids with ADHD

Children with ADHD often find it difficult to read because it takes a lot of focus and concentration. When our founder and CEO Cliff Weitzman first started trying to learn how to read he would fall asleep in his book because he had both dyslexia and ADHD. 

When Cliff was at college he built the answer to his reading attention challenges: Speechify

Speechify is a text-to-speech app that allows you to listen to any text in the world as an audiobook. Cliff built Speechify so that other 10-year-old kids wouldn’t face the same problems with reading that he did back then. Speechify is great for children with ADHD because it incorporates multi-sensory learning, uses engaging HD natural voices, and allows you to increase the speed of the audiobook to keep up with your child’s fast-moving mind.

Amber BC

Freelance copywriter and content producer helping Speechify work towards a world where reading is never a barrier to learning. Say hi on LinkedIn

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