Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects people of all ages. In both adults and children, ADHD is characterised by an abnormal pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that often interferes with day-to-day activities. Many individuals with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD may find it difficult to learn new skills or engage in productive activities that require concentration.
In most highly industrialised countries like Singapore, the condition is often identified at an early age though it isn’t uncommon for teens and adults to be diagnosed with the disorder. Failing to identify the possible symptoms of ADHD in childhood can negatively affect an individual’s academic performance and relationships in the long term, leading to lifelong self-esteem issues as well as challenges fitting in with the rest of society.
Fortunately, while the cause of ADHD is not yet fully understood, early diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate symptoms and improve long-term outcomes. In this article, we will look at common symptoms of ADHD as well as popular misconceptions surrounding the disorder. We’ll also guide you on what to do if your child displays symptoms that may indicate ADHD. If your child has already been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, you and your child’s clinician can discuss options for ADHD therapy Singapore-based parents depend on.
Common ADHD Symptoms in Children
Generally speaking, ADHD symptoms in children can be classified as either inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity. However, it’s important to understand that ADHD symptoms can vary from case to case and can change depending on the circumstances.
Symptoms of inattention include but are not limited to the following:
- Frequently losing things, even if they were in one’s possession minutes ago
- Difficulty paying attention, particularly in class
- Problems exercising empathy
- Forgetting to do homework or take things to class
- Only paying attention to things they are interested in
- Inability to note important details
- Actively avoiding tasks that require concentration
- Problems organising tasks
- Inability to conceptualise or manage time
- Seemingly unable to listen, even when directly spoken to
- “Laziness” or “apathy”, especially in school
Symptoms associated with hyperactivity-impulsivity may include:
- Constant fidgeting or squirming, particularly in class
- Difficulty staying seated
- Excessive talking or frequently interrupting others
- Engaging in impulsive or risky behaviour
- Difficulty staying in queue or waiting one’s turn
- Frequently talking, humming, or singing to oneself
- Constantly doodling in class
- Destroying property
Not that most, if not all, children will display at least a few of these behaviours at times. Engaging in these behaviours does not necessarily mean that a child has ADHD. For a child to be diagnosed with ADHD, these behaviours need to meet specific clinical criteria. If you believe your child or other loved one has ADHD, make sure to consult a qualified mental health professional.
Why is it Difficult to Spot ADHD in Children?
Spotting ADHD in children can be challenging for several reasons. First, while adult and childhood ADHD manifest themselves in broadly the same ways, it can be difficult to differentiate symptoms of the condition from normal childhood behaviour. Second, ADHD symptoms can change as a child grows older or as their environment changes. Third, children with ADHD often have co-occurring conditions such as anxiety or depression, which may mask ADHD symptoms and make diagnosis difficult. Lastly, the stigma and ignorance surrounding mental health issues may make it hard for parents to acknowledge that their child may have ADHD, causing them to delay or reject medical intervention.
Misconceptions about ADHD
Unfortunately, childhood ADHD is poorly understood by many people, including within the healthcare and educational communities. The similarities between normal childhood behaviours and ADHD symptoms may cause some parents and teachers to misjudge the possibility of a child having the condition. In addition, there is a prevailing belief that ADHD is merely laziness and can be “cured” through harsh discipline or bullying, which may lead children with ADHD to develop other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
There is also a popular belief that ADHD is caused by external factors, such as sugar consumption or overstimulation. These kinds of misconceptions may imply that poor parenting is ultimately to blame which, in turn, may cause parents to turn a blind eye to potential ADHD symptoms in their children.
While the specific causes of ADHD are not yet completely understood, research has shown that the brains of people with ADHD are markedly different from those without the condition. Additionally, there is also evidence that suggests a strong genetic component that influences the likelihood of a person having the disorder. This recent evidence largely disproves the ideas that ADHD is “made up”, can be corrected through abuse, or is caused by parental neglect.
What to Do if Your Child has ADHD Symptoms
If you suspect your child may have ADHD, seek advice from a qualified paediatrician or child psychiatrist. The earlier ADHD is identified, the better the chances that your child can lead a healthy, well-adjusted life. Delaying consultation and treatment can cause serious learning and self-esteem issues that, in turn, may increase the risk of your child developing co-occurring mental health disorders.
ADHD treatments may differ depending on the severity of the case. In Singapore, treatments typically include behavioural therapy as well as medications for more serious cases. The types of medications and therapies recommended may vary according to a child’s specific needs.
Parents can also support their child by creating structured routines, breaking tasks into smaller steps, using visual aids, and giving praise and other positive feedback for good behaviour. Additionally, parents should consider enrolling their child in a school that specialises in teaching children with neurodevelopmental issues. By combining different strategies and being willing to try different scientifically backed solutions, parents can ensure that their child is not only able to manage their symptoms but live a rich and fulfilling life as well.
Help Your Child Overcome ADHD
Educating yourself is the first step in helping your child manage the symptoms of ADHD. By ridding yourself of common misconceptions, being cognisant of the disorder’s symptoms, and fully supporting your child’s treatment, you can begin their recovery early and become instrumental in helping them overcome the disorder.