Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic behavioral disorder. It is behavior that is hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive. These must persist for at least six months and be present in two environments (home, work, or school). ADHD affects children, adolescents, and adults.
The cause of ADHD is unknown. It most likely is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. There also appears to be a genetic factor since ADHD can run in families.
A chemical imbalance in the brain may be responsible for ADHD.
There is no standard test to diagnose ADHD. It is done by a trained mental health professional. Family and teachers are involved, as well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the following guidelines be used for diagnosis in children 6-12 years of age:
Diagnosis should be initiated if a child shows signs of difficulty in:
Relationships with peers and family
During diagnosis, the following information should be gathered directly from parents, caregivers, teachers, or other school professionals:
Assessment of symptoms of ADHD in different settings (home and school)
Age at which symptoms started
How much the behavior affects the child's ability to function
The professional should examine the child for:
Other conditions that might be causing or aggravating symptoms
Learning and language problems
Depression or anxiety
For a diagnosis of ADHD to be made, symptoms must:
Be present in two or more of the child's settings
Interfere with the child's ability to function for at least six months
Fit a list of symptoms detailed in the most recent version of the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)
of the American Psychiatric Association
The goal is to improve the child's ability to function. Doctors should work together with parents and school staff. Together, they can set realistic goals and evaluate the child's response.
Medications can help control behavior and increase attention span. Stimulants are the most common choice for ADHD. They increase activity in parts of the brain that appear to be less active in children with ADHD. Stimulant medications include:
(Vyvanse)—This medication was recently approved to treat adults with ADHD. It can also be used to treat children aged 6-12 years.
Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about ADHD medication. There are possible risks with these medications, including cardiovascular events (eg,
) and psychiatric problems (eg, hearing voices, becoming manic).
Because of the rare risk of serious heart problems, the American Heart Association suggests that children have an
(ECG) before starting stimulant medication for ADHD.
Children who take medication and go to therapy do better than those who just use medication. Therapy sessions focus on practicing social and problem-solving skills. Counselors will also teach parents and teachers to help the child through positive reinforcement. This could involve changes in the classroom, as well as in parenting style. Often, daily report cards are exchanged between parents and teachers.
Other tools, like the Disc'O'Sit cushion, may be helpful in improving children's attention in class.
The Disc'O'Sit is a dome-shaped cushion filled with air that the child balances on.
There are no guidelines for preventing ADHD because the cause is unknown. Proper treatment can prevent problems later in life.
4/30/2008 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Pfeiffer B, Henry A, Miller S, Witherell S. Effectiveness of Disc 'O' Sit cushions on attention to task in second-grade students with attention difficulties.
Am J Occup Ther.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a