What is ADHD and How do You Manage it?

By: Dr. Noel Swanson

There are some children who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The symptoms exhibited by these children are:

1) Poor concentration and attention span 2) Poor memory 3) Impulsiveness - the trait of doing things without thinking first 4) Easily frustrated - because of poor concentration and memory when they cannot remember things, they get frustrated. This causes behavioral patterns like temper tantrums and outbursts

While most children as well as adults face similar difficulties during daily routine, those children who suffer from ADHD have a far larger frequency of these difficulties. The extent is so acute that they are unable to undertake tasks such as:

a) Participating in activities at school such as getting work done, paying attention, maintaining focus, being attentive in class etc.

b) Participating in healthy activities at home such as getting chores finished, maintaining cordial relations with siblings, maintaining a modicum of efficiency and getting things done on time.

c) Participate and contribute actively in social activities such as being tolerant and accommodating of others, controlling temper and aggression, not playing practical jokes on others etc.

ADHD is not a malfunction of any body part as it is in conditions like asthma or diabetes. This condition of ADHD happens because parts of brain are not working at full efficiency

Studies have proved that ADHD is partially genetic, gets transferred from parents to children and in a way runs in the family. What has also been established that the symptoms and the problems associated with ADHD are almost life long. They cannot be cured over night are with you for a long time. In most cases, these symptoms and problems continue well into the teens and often into adulthood too.


Children suffering from ADHD can get long term complications which may run into their adulthood as well. These complications could be:

a) Their fear of failure at school owing to poor concentration, leading to school drop out

b) Are constantly in trouble because of their impulsive behavior

c) Their fear of taking recourse to anti-depressants such as drinks, drugs, crime etc to avoid getting anxious and depressed.

All of these may then have long term implications even into adulthood.

The goal of management is, therefore, to prevent complications. This is a long term process, so the most important people to take charge of this are the parents. It is you as parents who have to live with the child, you who are most concerned about his/her long term well-being, and you who know your child best. If you do not take an active role in managing the difficulties then whatever else other people do will be unlikely to make much difference. However, if you do your part then there is much that others can do to help you along the way. Effective management is likely to include the following components:

COMMITTED PARENTS who will work for the best for their child. There is much information, including books and videos, on ADHD and how to help your child - borrow them, buy them, read them, and become informed. But remember there is also much mis-information (especially on the internet and in newspapers and magazines), so discuss what you read with your local support group and professionals. Be especially suspicious of groups who claim to have the "magic cure" for your child.

GOOD COMMUNICATION is very essential between parents, support groups and the school teachers. If all three groups care to communicate and solve particular problems it will be beneficial for the child.

ADJUSTMENTS IN THE ENVIRONMENT. Children with ADHD do best in a quiet, calm, structured, low-stimulation environment (e.g. one to one) and poorly in chaotic situations (e.g. busy classrooms, noisy, busy homes). As a family you may want to find ways to reorganise life so that it is less stressful for all of you. At school the teachers will be doing the same, and it is best if the two can be co-ordinated.

CLEAR BEHAVIORAL MANAGEMENT STRATEGY. These children respond best to very clear expectations of behavior, and very clear rewards and punishments - with rewards being more frequent than punishments. If you are having difficulty in doing this at home you may want to talk about some strategies with your key worker.

SUPPORT FOR THE PARENTS. These children are hard work - even for the best of parents. This often produces a lot of stress. Often this can lead to marital breakdowns and parents getting depressed themselves. To prevent this you may need to consider getting help for yourselves - parent support groups, parent training groups, respite care, marital counseling, family therapy are all possible resources.

MEDICATION for ADHD should be such that reduces the symptoms and lets the child the opportunity to learn academic, social, and other life skills. The aim here should be to get the correct medicine in the right dosage. child the opportunity to learn academic, social, and other life skills.

Most common type of medicines used for children with ADHD are the stimulants. One medicine that is available in the market to reduce the symptoms of ADHD is atomoxetine. This medicine has very less side effects.

As health professionals we cannot raise your child for you, nor can we solve all your problems as you travel with your child along life's journey. What we can do, however, is to assist you in getting unstuck when you get stuck along the way. We will try to help you to sort out all of the above points as best you can.

The person who has to cope with this is you and your family. Therefore, this is best addressed by you and the first step towards this is to learn as much as you can. Learning all you can results in better management and better results.

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Dr. Noel Swanson has a free newsletter that is packed with free advice: parenting newsletter If you are struggling with your children's behaviors in any way, you should definitely get his book The GOOD CHILD Guide: www.good-child-guide.com - it will help!
This and other unique content parenting articles are available with free reprint rights.

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