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Nearly all kids struggle to control themselves at times. It’s normal for children to become distracted, restless or impatient. But for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adolescents and teens, it’s more than an occasional issue. Frequent and persistent symptoms of inattention, impulsivity or hyperactivity can affect their ability to lead normal lives.
More than 9% of U.S. children ages 2-17 have ADHD – a neurological (or brain) disorder that makes it hard for kids to control their behavior. ADHD affects the part of the brain that helps children pay attention, make decisions, plan and organize. As a result, ADHD often affects a child’s performance in school.
Although it begins in childhood, ADHD often continues into adulthood. But the condition is manageable with help from Mercy’s pediatricians and pediatric behavioral health providers.
In children with ADHD, the prefrontal cortex (forehead region) of the brain – the last part of the brain to develop in all people – can be even slower to mature. This results in decreased levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a crucial role in regulating attention, behavior and emotion.
Other factors that can contribute to ADHD in children include:
While it’s true some kids with ADHD are more sensitive to sugar, refined flour, food dyes and other dietary substances, these nutritional factors don’t actually cause ADHD.
ADHD has three groups of behavior symptoms: inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Children with ADHD may not have all the symptoms or experience them the same way. However, symptoms typically occur for more than 6 months and happen in 2 or more settings, such as home, school and/or social situations.
Inattention symptoms in child ADHD are associated with behaviors that include:
Children who are hyperactive may show these behaviors:
These behaviors may be symptoms of impulsivity:
Diagnosing ADHD in children requires expertise since its symptoms are similar to normal behaviors in young kids as well as the commonality of one more condition being present. It’s common for children with ADHD to have other problems like oppositional defiance, learning disabilities, anxiety and depression. Mercy’s pediatricians and behavioral health experts can diagnose your child and develop an ADHD treatment plan.
While there’s no single test to diagnose ADHD in children, Mercy providers evaluate kids in multiple ways. Their overall health is assessed, including screenings for medical issues like vision, hearing, sleep or other problems that can affect behavior.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends gathering information about children’s behavior from parents, teachers or others with whom they spend time in different settings like home, school, sports or other activities. Guidelines are used to identify patterns of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity in children. ADHD is diagnosed only when symptoms are severe enough to cause ongoing problems in more than one area of your child’s life.
With treatment, many children with ADHD are successful in school and other areas of their lives. Mercy’s behavioral health specialists can show you how to help your child make positive changes. While there’s no cure, many treatment options are available for ADHD in children.
Finding the right medication, dosage and schedule for your child may take time. Some medications may be more effective than others at improving your child’s symptoms. Types of pediatric ADHD medication include:
Your Mercy provider will start with a mild dose, monitor for side effects and adjust as needed. Medication may be used alone or in combination with other therapies to treat children with ADHD. Talk with your provider about the benefits and risks of medication for child ADHD.
Therapy can be effective in helping your child manage ADHD symptoms such as impulsivity, inattention, distractibility and disorganization.
Kids with ADHD face extra challenges in school. Learning requires concentration, comprehension, behavior control and other skills that don’t come easily to children with ADHD. And learning disabilities are also common in kids with ADHD. Schools work with many children to minimize the effects of ADHD on learning. Common techniques used in the classroom include:
Federal laws require public schools to evaluate your child’s educational needs and provide services based on the evaluation. Make the school aware your child has ADHD (and any other learning problems), and ask about next steps for meeting your child’s educational needs.
While not all ADHD treatments are available in all locations, your Mercy doctor can help you locate resources and provide a treatment plan for your child.
At Mercy, we offer comprehensive pediatric behavioral health screening services to diagnose ADHD and other mental health conditions, including:
At Mercy, we offer compassionate care for a variety of pediatric mental health treatment services, including: