I have two very active children. And, while at times their energy has been overwhelming and a tad annoying, I have been reluctant to attribute their vivacity to anything more than love of life.
Well. That's not entirely true. I'm an educator. I know the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and have filled out my fair share of evaluation forms.
Perhaps I was living in that cloud-coo-coo-land of denial for awhile, but in returning to school after Christmas break this year, I became more aware of my children's symptoms.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, "ADHD is a problem with inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity, or a combination. For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for a child's age and development." Everyone expects a three year-old to have difficulty sitting quietly for long periods of time. Even teenagers can be disinterested in activities that require prolonged concentration, but they can spend hours talking with friends. Those behaviors are quite normal.
The symptoms, which must appear before age 7, according to the Mayo Clinic, fall into two categories; Inattention and Hyperactive/ Impulsive Behavior.
Inattention signs include:
- Failure to pay close attention to details, makes careless mistakes
- Frequently loses needed items like books, pencils, tools etc.
- Trouble sustaining attention to tasks
- Seems not to listen when spoken to directly
- Difficulty following through on instructions (fails to complete homework, chores or other tasks)
- Avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Easily distracted
- Often forgetful
Hyperactive and Impulsive Behavior signs include:
- In situations where remaining seated is expected, often leaves his seat
- Often runs or climbs excessively when it's not appropriate
- Frequently has difficulty playing quietly
- Talks excessively
- Blurts answers before questions have been completed
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others' conversations or activities
- Fidgets or squirms frequently
Having developed a positive relationship with my children's teachers throughout the first part of the year, I was able to talk candidly with them after Christmas break. They shared my concerns. They didn't make light of my children's behaviors, but encouraged me to seek the advice of our family doctor or pediatrician. These teachers frequently express a genuine affection for my children and a desire to see them succeed in school.
I took both of the children (at the same time) to the doctor. He experienced the full force of their activity. He also was encouraging. He provided me with Vanderbilt assessment sheets from the National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality for me to fill out as well as evaluation sheets for each of their teachers.
I have talked with a friend whose two (now adult) children have ADHD. We talked about the struggle about medication. We talked pros and cons. She, too, was very encouraging.
I have surrounded myself with qualified professionals who care about the well being of my children. I know that whatever the outcome of the assessment, those people will continue to support me and care about my kids.
If you think your child demonstrates signs of ADHD, talk to your pediatrician or family doctor. Talk with your child's teachers. They may tell you there's nothing to worry about. But, if they share your concerns, you can take steps to intervene.
Michelle Luce is a mother, teacher and a writer. She lives in Swansea, South Carolina.