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A closer look at ADHD

More...National Institute on Mental Health

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder describes a condition that causes children to have a persistent pattern of being impulsive or have serious trouble paying attention or both. These behaviors are more frequent and severe than typical among individuals at the same level of development.

Known as ADHD, the condition causes children to fidget, fail to finish projects, and become easily distracted. They seem not to listen and have difficulty concentrating. Children with ADHD act before thinking. They switch from one activity to another and have a hard time sitting still for very long. These behaviors appear at home, school, and in social situations.

As many as one in every 20 school-age children has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The cause is unknown, but researchers suspect the possibility of a genetic or other prenatal cause, such as fetal alcohol syndrome, lead toxicity or other environmental cause, and food allergies.

ADHD can be diagnosed only after a complete evaluation of the child's medical, psychological, educational, and behavioral strengths and difficulties. Among the criteria for confirming a diagnosis is determining if the behavior is chronic and pervasive and whether it is due to anxiety or depression.

Children do not have to be hyperactive to be diagnosed with the condition, and some children actually are lethargic, shy, and withdrawn, as if they were living in another world, lazy, or uncaring. These children used to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. But since 1994, the ADD term has been replaced the more inclusive phrase attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with a subsidiary diagnosis to indicate whether a child exhibits one (inattention) or both of the characteristic behaviors (inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity).

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder usually shows up by age 7 and it is found most often in boys. It affects children of average ability as well as gifted children.

ADHD is not a learning disability. A learning disability refers to difficulty in receiving and processing information and feeding it back to teachers and parents, whereas ADHD refers to trouble paying attention to information at the outset.

As many as half the children with ADHD grow out of it somewhat or completely at puberty. While the condition is present, medication has been found effective in treating or controlling the symptoms. Other avenues include special classrooms or seating in a classroom to eliminate distractions, tutoring to work past the point of receiving information, simplified instructions, a concrete calendar for assignments, rewards and consequences delivered immediately, and the use of a variety of rewards.

Children with ADHD endure frustration, disappointment, and feelings of failure over their inability to receive and process information, as well as due to the taunts of their classmates. Sometimes these feelings are vented through aggression or other lashing out behaviors. Families can go a long way toward easing these feelings by being patient and helping a child get along with playmates, family, and school personnel. Families can accomplish this by maintaining a sense of humor, perspective, and emotional distance from the child's problems and by choosing battles carefully.

Families can shield children with ADHD from distracting lights and sounds when the children are studying or going to sleep. This seems to help because children with the condition seem to respond indiscriminately to stimuli; that is, they pay attention to all signals, such as ringing phones, blinking lights, and voices down the hall. They can't seem to screen out the needed signals from the background noise.

Children with ADHD may be accident prone, and parents need to be careful about their health and safety. Further, children with ADHD may not learn from previous experience and are forgetful; parents may have to repeat experiences until the proper behavior is instilled.

Previous efforts to treat the condition through diets free of sugar and additives have not met expectations, although food without sugar or additives is certainly not harmful.

Children who are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are found throughout this photo listing of children available for adoption. Almost all of them have found some benefit from medication to help focus their attention and in some cases to calm them down. While not an easy task, loving families can nurture children with ADHD. We know this because families are doing it every day.

If you are a Texas resident and are not approved as a foster or adoptive family, please fill out our Adoption and Foster Care Interest form in the Get Started section.

If you have questions or want to inquire about a specific child or sibling group,
contact the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) or call 1-800-233-3405.

                                                                                                                                                                   
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