for the love of children…
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
by Lawrence B. Lennon, Ph.D.
Is your child easily distracted, impulsive? Does he have a short attention span and trouble organizing and completing tasks? Is his school work messy? Is he underachieving in school? Do teachers say he doesn’t concentrate, has trouble remaining seated, and is constantly fidgeting and manipulating objects? If you answer yes to any or all of these questions, maybe your child has an Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or what’s better known as ADHD. But, then again, maybe he just needs more discipline.
ADHD is a popular term being used more and more by parents, teachers, and mental health professionals. Today, more than ever, many of our children are being medicated to control this type of behavior. But is ADHD just a “catch all label” under which every active child who misbehaves is placed? Some professionals believe it is so, while other professionals strongly disagree. So what do parents do?
As with all major decisions affecting the well-being of a child, there is no substitute for an inquisitive, well-informed parent. To provide one perspective, which hopefully concerned parents will include, I submit the following observations:
There is no one way to determine if a child has ADHD and competent professionals may often disagree. But if the ADHD diagnosis is given, I strongly recommend that it be used only if a multidisciplinary assessment is performed involving input from the parents, the child, teachers, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist. When a consensus of opinions is reached about a child’s behavior among these team members, then the diagnosis of ADHD is warranted. If there is not a consensus, another opinion should be sought.
There is no single cause for ADHD. The same behavior (interrupting others, not listening when spoken to, constant squirming in a chair, shifting from one uncompleted activity to another, etc.) can be due to central nervous system abnormalities, but also can be attributed to boredom, chaotic home life, physical abuse, poor discipline, and attention-seeking purposes.
If ADHD is determined by thorough assessment to be present then treatment is available. The selection of the most effective treatment approach is based upon what is known about the origin of the disorder as well as information about the environmental variables that may be sustaining inappropriate behavior. For example, medication alone may be helpful for a child who has central nervous problems but is unlikely to help a child who is reacting to a disruptive home environment. Psychotherapy is usually effective in helping children who are having trouble concentrating and obeying because of emotional problems. However, when therapy alone does not appear to be changing a child’s overactive behavior, the combination of counseling and medication may be necessary.
When a child is continuously exhibiting disruptive behavior at home or at school, the parents need to intervene. The resolution of the problem begins with a thorough assessment of a child and this should include an understanding of what is causing and perpetuating the behavior. Parental involvement in the treatment is not only a responsibility but a right.