Send to a Friend
Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity
Almost all children have times when they don't seem to pay attention, can't sit still, or just have more energy than they can burn. For some children, however, difficulty concentrating or very high physical energy levels (hyperactivity) interfere with social and academic tasks appropriate for their ages.
The exact cause of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is unknown. Popular theories that sugar, food dyes, or other food additives contribute to hyperactivity or that the condition is caused by minute levels of brain damage have not been proven.
A child who has true ADHD may have problems paying attention, be impulsive, be hyperactive, or have some combination of these. Such a child may talk constantly, be unable to wait his or her turn in groups, and pay little attention to details. Schoolwork may be messy or filled with careless mistakes. The child may be easily distracted, act before thinking or have trouble sitting still. The child may also have difficulty controlling anger.
In about 50 percent of cases, symptoms subside (but never entirely disappear) in late adolescence and early adulthood. Some teenagers and adults may continue to have feelings of restlessness or difficulty engaging in quiet, sedentary activities. Some of these individuals may also be at risk for other disorders as adults – such as mood disorders, substance use disorders, and antisocial behaviors.
In some ways, a diagnosis of ADHD is a "relative" diagnosis, meaning that a child with the disorder has far more difficulty with attention or controlling impulses or activity than do most other children. But not all children with ADHD have big problems with hyperactivity and impulsiveness. For some, inattention is the primary problem. Likewise, some children who are clearly hyperactive are able to concentrate if they can just sit still long enough.
Because there is no scientific test for ADHD, the disorder can be difficult to distinguish from age-appropriate behaviors in active children. Symptoms like those of ADHD may also be brought on by grief (over the death of a parent or a divorce); depression; posttraumatic stress (after physical or sexual abuse); or other physical, emotional, or psychological problems.
Self-Care Steps for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Get an evaluation. A careful evaluation will look at how your child functions intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically, and academically. Ideally, the professional doing the evaluation should observe your child during normal daily activities in more than one setting (at home and at school) and at different times of the day.
Stick to a routine and set firm limits at home and school.
Make sure your child's schoolwork matches his or her abilities. A class that's not suited to your child's academic skills can lead to inattention, boredom, and frustration.
Provide outlets for your child's physical energy.
Make sure you find ways to cope. Parenting a hyperactive child can be challenging. Avoid becoming very critical, controlling, or angry with your child. Remember -- and let your child know -- you don't like the behavior, but you love the child.
Use other resources. Share your concerns with your child's doctor and teacher. They will provide information on help that is available in your community. Your child's doctor may prescribe medications.
09-01-06 Montreal Children's Hospital - SW
<< More health topics
The Montreal Children's Hospital is proud to be affiliated with:
MCH Research Institute
MUHC Research Institute
Best Care for Life Campaign
Family Resource Library
CYF Health Network
® 2013 All Rights Reserved The Montreal Children's Hospital