At a young age children can sometimes tear through the house like a tornado, leaving a wake of destruction in their path. Especially young boys enjoy roughhousing, climbing on furniture and seemingly lose interest in their toys after only several minutes. For many parents these years are exhausting but time limited. Children under the age of five often exhibit all of these symptoms and more. They are a function of their growing and maturing neurological system and not necessarily a picture of what is to come.
Parents ask the questions “what is ADHD” when their children appear to continue to exhibit behaviors similar to younger children, cause disruptions in the classroom, are difficult to parent and have a hard time completing even simple tasks.
In some cases this type of behavior may not disappear after the child has reached kindergarten or first grade. Instead it appears to remain the same, and in some instances appears to get even worse. The perception of increasingly bad behavior can be from the expectation that as children grow and mature so will their behavior.
ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a condition in which the brain chemicals of a child or adult do not function in the same way as they do in others who do not suffer from these symptoms. These chemical, or neurotransmitters, affect the organization of thoughts and produce the symptoms that are associated with the condition.
Children and adults with ADHD have some similar and some dissimilar symptoms. Those symptoms also depend upon the type of ADHD which the individual experiences. There is a type in which the person has more hyperactivity, another where the individual is inattentive and a third where the person has a mixture of both.
ADHD is actually a common disorder, especially among boys, affecting between 5 and 10% of the population depending upon the statistics and the area of the country in which you live. Depending upon the social norms, there are some communities who do not accept any disruptive behaviors from boys or girls and will quickly attempt to medicate children to keep them in line.
On the other hand it is important to get an accurate assessment of the situation so that early intervention and treatment can increase the successful outcomes. Children with ADHD have a more difficult time in school, reading, doing math and making friends. All of these skills are needed to successfully complete their growing years and mature into productive and happy adults.
With early intervention, both behavioral and medical, children and parents are able to have a better bond and children are better able to function in their environments. If you suspect that your son or daughter has ADHD it is important to discuss this with your doctor. They will likely recommend an evaluation tool that integrates the evaluations of parents, doctor and teachers to see the whole picture.
Children who are compliant and focused at home but disruptive in the classroom are not candidates for ADHD medication. The condition will affect the behavior of these children in most situations and environments. So while the teacher may have difficulty with Johnny’s disruptions in the classroom if he is easy going and happy in all other situations, able to carry out tasks easily and stay focused outside the classroom there is another issue at play that may be easily remedied with behavioral counseling without the medications and their side effects.
The questions about what is ADHD has been a topic of heated debate throughout several communities for years. Some see the antics of young boys as the typical ‘boys will be boys’ behavior while others are unable to tolerate the behaviors at all. At some point the behaviors become more than boy behaviors – but at what point that happens is a matter for the parents and physician to discuss.
KidsHealth: What is ADHD
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: What is ADHD
National Institute of Mental Health: What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
University of Michigan: ADHD and Education