Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Attention Deficit Disorder

How does it hurt?
Hyperactive 8 year olds are what we may think of when we hear ADHD, but this disorder remains a stumbling block for children into their teens and beyond. While hyperactivity often improves in adolescence, 75% of these teens will not improve (in attention or impulse control) to the point that they are equal to their peers, and 60% continue to experience difficulties as adults. Previously, unidentified attention problems surface in the teen years, when the workload multiplies, independence is expected and relationships become more complex. Teens with ADHD lack the organizational and social skills to keep up with their peers, so grades and friendships suffer. Faced with so much negativity and failure, self-esteem often plummets. Left untreated ADHD (and it’s commonly co-morbid conditions of learning disabilities, anxiety, and depression) can pave the way for delinquency, substance abuse and conduct disorder.

What can be done?
The child should undergo a complete medical and psychological evaluation to ensure an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. If a diagnosis of ADHD is found, much can be done to help.

·         Individualized education programs can help the child keep up academically. An educational environment that provides structure, brevity, and variety is vital to the academic success of a child with ADHD. Simple strategies such as refocusing, proximity, and providing memory aids or cue cards work wonders for children with attention difficulties.

·         Research documents that medication can be helpful to teens with ADHD. Not every ADHD teen needs medication, but it can be effective in increasing attention span, task completion, and impulse control. Hence relationships and grades improve which boosts self-esteem.

·         Psychotherapy is often warranted to help a teen cope with the social and emotional ramifications of living with ADHD. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to identify impulsive/inattentive behaviors and guides him toward alternative behaviors, encouraging improved skills. Social skills training can help an adolescent interpret the nuances of interpersonal relationships that ADHD hinders him from identifying. Family sessions can educate parents and siblings about the biological basis of the problem and help families make appropriate adjustments in the way they interact with the teen.

So often we look at characteristics of ADHD as weaknesses or signs of dysfunction. Yet the children with ADHD have been found to have strengths in creativity, inventiveness and imagination. Once a teen with ADHD has learned to channel his spontaneity, what was once viewed as his “deficit” can become his “it quality” in both his professional and personal life.