At times, all kids have trouble paying attention, listening, sitting still or waiting their turn. But for kids who have ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), they have trouble with these things almost all the time.
ADHD is a brain disorder that can affect a child’s attention and self-control, and therefore, they have a harder time staying focused. It also can make kids more fidgety than other kids their age. Kids with ADHD might have a tough time controlling their behavior and get into trouble more.
ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 6 million children ages 3 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD in this country, with boys more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
Daniel Smith, MD, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Akron Children’s, has noticed an increase in mental health concerns among children and teens since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—and continues to see the impact. But, he cautions ADHD isn’t a diagnosis based on just 1 or 2 behaviors.
“A main characteristic of ADHD is inattention, but other conditions such as anxiety, and learning or intellectual disabilities can also cause inattention,” said Dr. Smith. “Other factors including the child’s age, cognitive and behavioral development, as well as other co-existing conditions are also important in understanding why a child may be displaying certain behaviors.”
Typically, patterns of ADHD symptoms are there since early childhood. Dr. Smith defines inattention as the lack of ability to sustain attention and focus for a period of time necessary to complete the task at hand and can present in different ways:
- Getting distracted by external environmental stimuli
- Daydreaming or thinking about something other than the task at hand
- Rushing through the task at hand and making careless mistakes
- Being disorganized and frequently losing things
- Needing frequent and repeated external prompting and reminders to start, stay on and complete tasks
Boredom, on the other hand, is more just losing interest in something, not a difficulty maintaining focus and attention. All kids get bored, but for children with ADHD, they may lose attention and become bored more quickly and easily.
“The other piece of an ADHD diagnosis is displaying hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors that can be disruptive, especially in the classroom,” said Dr. Smith. “Kids with ADHD may find it difficult to sit still and remain in their seats, interrupt the teacher or other students, and blurt out answers, or struggle to keep their hands to themselves.”
How parents can help kids with ADHD
If parents notice a pattern of behavior or struggles that get harder and more frequent, they should seek out their primary care provider for guidance. Dr. Smith also encourages parents to ask teachers if they’re noticing ADHD symptoms in their child and to make their own notes of why they’re concerned. Some questions worth answering include: What symptoms or behaviors are concerning? When do these symptoms present during the day? What seems to bring them about?
With or without an ADHD diagnosis, there are ways parents can support their child who may be struggling. The Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Akron Children’s has an Executive Functioning Skills Building Program, where children and parents can learn practical ways to improve skills related to memory, planning, organization, emotional regulation and time management.
To learn more about the program or to schedule an appointment with Akron Children’s Lois and John Orr Family Behavioral Health Center, call 330-543-5015. You also can contact one of our pediatricians for help. Virtual visits are available.