Parents often have many questions and misconceptions about ADHD. There is a lot of information in the media and on the internet regarding ADHD, but it is not all correct. The following information can be helpful in explaining ADHD to parents. This information is also available in PDF format in the downloads tab.
Parents ask: What is ADHD?
Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder that results in inattention impulsivity/hyperactivity, or a combination of both. About 3-5% of American children have ADHD. ADHD is most commonly a result of inefficient performance in the frontal lobe of the brain. The frontal lobe has two primary functions related to ADHD: organization and impulse control. In children with ADHD, this part of their brain is slower to develop. This does not mean that children with ADHD have "brain damage," only that the part of their does not work as efficiently as others
Parents ask: What are the symptoms?
There are three primary symptom clusters in ADHD: difficulty paying attention, overactivity, and impulsive behavior. It is important that children with ADHD have significantly more difficulty in these areas that children their age. These symptoms are best treated with medication such as stimulants. Stimulants help with increasing focus and self-control in about 70% of people with ADHD.
Secondary to these difficulties, many children with ADHD also have problems with behavior, academics, depression, anxiety, and peer relation. This set of additional difficulties are best treated through behavioral therapy. Additionally, parents and teachers can contribute to successful home and classroom environments for the child by assisting children with ADHD with organizational and study skills.
Talking with Children About ADHD
While parents are often the driving force behind the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in children, it is also important that children fully understand their own diagnosis and what it means. However, children can have difficulty understanding the explanation we give parents about ADHD, meaning that you need to provide age-appropriate descriptions. Below is an example of such ways to talk to kids about ADHD.
Kids ask: What does it mean to have ADHD?
When children have ADHD, they have a disorder that causes trouble with behaviors such as sitting still, paying attention, and thinking before they act. Since they have a hard time paying attention and staying on-task, they may have trouble behaving in class, doing homework or schoolwork, following the rules at home, and doing their chores. A lot of times these difficulties cause kids with ADHD to get in trouble, even when they did not mean to do anything wrong. Kids who have ADHD are NOT bad, lazy, or stupid. They just have a harder time than some kids at following the rules and paying attention. There are many things that kids with ADHD are good at!!
Kids ask: What are some of the signs of ADHD?
ADHD looks a little bit different in every kid, so you might not have the same signs as a classmate with ADHD. But we do know that some kids with ADHD can be disorganized, distracted, forgetful, often wiggle around in seats, might talk nonstop, often interrupt conversations, and blurt out answers to questions without raising their hand first. Again, kids with ADHD do not mean to do many of these things, they just have a harder time!
Kids ask: How did I get ADHD?
ADHD is not like a cold or the flu, you can't "catch" ADHD from anyone! Most kids get ADHD just like they get other characteristics like the color of their eyes or how tall they are- it runs in families! Sometimes we do not know how someone got ADHD and can only make guesses, but there are people studying these questions to try to understand it better. What we do know is that ADHD is caused by differences in how your brain works and sends messages. People with ADHD have less activity in the parts of the brain that control attention and concentration.
Kids ask: Who else has ADHD?
A lot of people have ADHD! About 1 in 20 kids, or 5% of all kids everywhere have ADHD. If we were to count, it would be over 1 million in people the United States! These people can be boys or girls, kids or teenagers, and even adults!
A lot of famous people actually have ADHD too. For example: