Talking about ADHD
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and is a neuro developmental disorder and can be diagnosed in children and adults based on the symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity.
How are these things presented in our children?
Inattention signs include:
Making careless mistakes.
Having difficulty focussing.
Hard to concentrate and pay attention, organise and focus.
Losing things and forgetting things and not finishing homework.
Wondered if I had a hearing problem. Look like they don’t hear you.
Keep attention in class.
Struggle with details that they are not interested in.
Can’t respond to everything that comes to their attention.
The opposite of inattention. If your child’s brain gets engaged in the right way, your child will focus so intently on something that it’s hard to tear them away from it.
Hyperactivity and impulsivity signs:
Fidgeting or restlessness.
Trouble sitting still.
Interrupting and blurting out answers.
Struggle to wait their turn.
Get up from their seat.
They can’t sit still.
Run around when they are not supposed to.
Talk all the time.
Blurt out answers.
Racing thoughts and feelings - not just physically hyperactive but emotionally hyperactive.
Going to bed is a huge challenge.
What else is affected in a child’s ADHD brain?
Dopamine - their reward transmitter
The reward transmitter, have trouble with routine, everyday tasks works differently so what feels rewarding to us won’t to a child with ADHD.
This is affected. Planning ahead, initiating a task, remembering all the steps involved, being able to ignore distraction while they work on it all affected by ADHD - might get stuck on seemingly simple tasks.
Does everyone with ADHD have the same symptoms?
No, not everyone with ADHD has the same symptoms.
There are different levels of severity and people with ADHD often have coexisting conditions, such as learning difficulties, anxiety or depression. They can also be gifted.
ADHD children have incredible brains and one day it will be these brains that will do incredible things!
Impulsivity and distractibility can translate into creativity and curiosity and a willingness to take risks and an ability to think outside the box.
What is the difference between ADHD in boys and girls: GENERALISATIONS!!
Get in trouble a lot.
More physically aggressive e.g. shoving and hitting.
Boys symptoms are more external - affects others.
Externalise their frustrations.
Boys more likely to have behavioural issues.
Can easily be dismissed as “boys being boys”.
More verbally aggressive.
Girls systems are more internal - affects themselves.
Space out during conversations.
Focus negativity inwards.
Girls more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
What about Ssecondary school age children - how does ADHD affect older children?
- Hard work to get their work handed in on time.
- They’ll often feel frustrated because they’re bright but their grades might not reflect this all the time.
- If your child could actually sit down and start their homework, they would.
- Struggling with seemingly really simple things is really frustrating.
- Just because you sometimes can’t see ADHD doesn’t mean it is not there.
- ADHD will affect every aspect of your child’s life.
- Symptoms are sometimes considered behaviours and don’t intentionally to upset someone.
- Like having a billion trampolines in their heads.
- Often children will stare into space but it’s often because you’ve triggered a really interesting thought in them.
Let’s talk more about how ADHD affects your child’s emotions - it’s called emotional deregulation
Research shows their is a connection between ADHD and emotional dysregulation.
Your child might be told they are too sensitive.
Get excited too easily.
Many emotional storms.
It’s called emotional dysregulation.
A child with ADHD will feel normal emotions but they often feel and the way your child responds to those emotions can be more intense and last longer than neurotypical brains.
Brains have trouble regulating normal emotions.
Emotional self-regulation is complicated and it relies on things an ADHD has trouble doing.
ADHD children find it hard not to be impulsive especially when reacting to emotions they find difficult.
The more impulsive a child is the more impulsive their emotions are.
Anger, frustration, happiness and sadness - your ADHD child will feel and express strong emotions.
How can we help initially with their emotions - create an emotional tracker.
When your child has an emotional reaction - pay attention to it. What happened? What did it feel like? What was the situation/trigger? What did you feel? How did you react? What are the consequences? Will help you see your child’s emotional reactions. Just the act of noticing your emotions will help.
Some simple things we can do to help someone who has ADHD?
- Remember your child isn’t lazy or not trying or you’re doing anything wrong.
Remember ADHD is a neurodevelopment disorder so your child’s brain functions and develops differently.
2. Understand your child’s struggles.
Even with treatment ADHD doesn’t go away so the best thing you can do for your child is understand their struggles and work out ways that will help them feel less frustrated, more organised etc.
3. Help ease your child out of their hyper focus to get their attention. Simple touch.
4. When you want to talk to your child, give your child something to play with.
Fidget toys helps your child’s brain from bouncing all over the room. It will help your child focus. Have important conversations with your child when there aren’t distractions around.
5. Losing stuff
It’s important to have a place for everything. Be consistent.
6. Emotional meltdowns.
Often ADHD children can’t keep their emotions in check. Cut your child some slack. Tend to be sensitive. Find a way to work with your child’s brain.
Things for you to remember
1 You didn’t cause your child’s ADHD.
You did’t cause it and the things your child struggles with aren’t character defects. They are a result of how their brain is structured and an actual chemical imbalance in your child’s brain.
2 It’s not all bad.
ADHD isn’t all bad. Often a child with ADHD is creative, clever, funny and empathetic. Children with ADHD can also be hyper focused. It’s kind of like their superpower!
3 ADHD can be treated but medication is not your only option.
4 It’s important to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
Your child’s ADHD will not get worse but the impact on your child’s life will if not recognised.
5 Behaviour is affected by the brain and ADHD brains develop and function much differently from neurotypical brains.