This article provides basic information on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and describes an approach to getting services and supports, called “systems of care,” that helps children, youth, and families thrive at home, in school, in the community, and throughout life.
In a classroom of 30 children or youth, it is likely that at least two students are affected by ADHD. This surprisingly common condition makes it hard for children and youth to control their behavior (sit still, think before speaking or acting, etc.) and/or to pay attention. If left untreated, it can lead to school or job difficulties, depression, relationship problems, and substance abuse.
What is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? There are three types of ADHD: the hyperactive-impulsive type, the inattentive type, and a type that is a combination of both. The severity of ADHD varies among children, even siblings, so no two children will have exactly the same symptoms. Also, you may hear that girls have lower rates and less severe cases of the disorder than boys. More research is needed on this subject, but girls may have lower rates of the hyperactive type.
Hyperactive-Impulsive – Feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming while seated; running, climbing, or getting up in situations where sitting or quiet behavior is expected; blurting out answers before hearing the whole question; and having difficulty waiting in line or taking turns.
Inattentive – May appear not to be listening or seems easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds; often failing to pay attention to details, and making careless mistakes; rarely following instructions carefully, and often losing or forgetting things like toys, pencils, books or other tools needed for a task; and often skipping from one uncompleted activity to another.
Experts believe that in some cases, heredity plays a role in whether or not a child has ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD are first seen in children before age 6 and may cause problems at home, at school, or in relationships. Sometimes, it is hard to tell if a child has ADHD because symptoms can be mistaken for typical childhood behaviors or other mental health issues, and ADHD often occurs at the same time that other conditions are present. Equally important are the roles that a family’s culture and language play in how causes and symptoms are perceived and then described to a mental health care provider. Misperceptions and misunderstandings can lead to delayed diagnoses, misdiagnoses, or no diagnoses – which are serious problems when a child needs help. That is why only qualified health care or mental health care providers can diagnose ADHD, and why it is important that supports be in place to bridge differences in language and culture.
What happens after an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis? If a qualified health care or mental health care provider has diagnosed your child with ADHD, he or she may suggest several different treatment options, including a combination of strategies for managing behaviors, medications, and talk therapy. Your child’s health care or mental heath care provider may also suggest enrolling in a system of care, if one is available.
What is a system of care? A system of care is a coordinated network of community-based services and supports that are organized to meet the challenges of children and youth with serious mental health needs and their families. Families – as well as children and youth – work in partnership with public and private organizations so services and supports are effective, build on the strengths of individuals, and address each person’s cultural and linguistic needs. Specifically, a system of care can help by: tailoring services to the unique needs of your child and family; making services and supports available in your language and connecting you with professionals who respect your values and beliefs; encouraging you and your child to play as much of a role in the design of a treatment plan as you want; and providing services from within your community, whenever possible.
Data collected nationally suggests that systems of care are effective in treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Source – U. S. Department of Health and Human Services