Toolbox for Parents
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD is a complex neuorobiological disorder: There are three different subtypes of ADHD and ADHD manifests differently in boys and girls. The three different subtypes of ADHD are hyperative, inattentive (formerly ADD) and combined. Symptoms often - but not always - include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity).
ADHD starts in childhood but oftens continues into adulthood.
Toolbox: Some reliable sources of information on the definition of ADHD:
What causes ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD has not yet been determined but we know that people with ADHD have a different brain chemistry than people who do not have ADHD. We also know that ADHD runs strongly in families so it is believed that ADHD has a genetic component.
Toolbox: Some reliable sources on the causes and brain chemistry of ADHD:
What do I do if I suspect my child has ADHD?
Seeking a diagnosis
There is no simple test for ADHD. Therefore, ADHD should be diagnosed by a trained health care provider. Your child may be diagnosed by a variety of medical and mental health care professionals including:
- Your Pediatrician or Family Doctor
- A Private Psychologist or Psychiatrist
- A School Psychologist
Understanding the diagnostic process
While there is no simple test, there is a standard process for diagnosing ADHD. Your chosen health care professional will probably ask about:
- the symptoms your child is experiencing that lead you to suspect ADHD
- your child's health history
- your family history
- academic history
Toolbox: Sample forms health professionals use to diagnose ADHD:
Understanding Your Child's Diagnosis
ADHD is a neurobiological disorder. There is no cure, but it can treated. It is not caused by bad parenting. If your child has ADHD, your child has real challenges that can make certain activities, such as school, work and social interactions, more difficult for your child than for other children.
Toolbox: Glossary of Terms relating to ADHD
Can ADHD be cured?
No. There are a variety of tools and supports that help children, and adults, successfully manage their ADHD.
What do I do if my child is diagnosed with ADHD?
Although there is no simple cure for ADHD, the symptoms of ADHD can be managed and treated successfully. With treatment, people with ADHD can be successful in school and lead productive lives. Elements of a successful ADHD management plan may include:
- School or Academic Support and/or Accomodations
- Behavior or Cognitive Training
- Support groups
The most important element in helping your child manage ADHD is YOUR understanding and support. Remember that ADHD is not bad behavior. It can, however, be extremely challenging to parent a child with ADHD. YOU also need care and support to do your job well. Rely on a team and treat yourself whenever possible!
There are several different treatments used to manage ADHD. They fall into one of two categories: stimulant and non-stimulant medications. These medications have all been approved by the FDA as a safe means to treat ADHD. Though medication is not a cure, it is thought to help the areas of the brain that control attention and behavior to work more like those of people without ADHD.
Whether to use medication to treat your child's ADHD and which medication to use must be determined in consultation with your doctor. Remember, only a medical doctor can prescribe medication.
Toolbox: FDA's Guide to ADHD medications
Children with ADHD can face challenges in school and with school work at home. Children with ADHD are eligible for accomodations in school under Federal Disablities Law. These can include stategies for reducing distractions in the classroom, additional time for school assignments and modifications to school assignments.
Toolbox: Federal Disabilities Law
Working with your child's school, teachers and counselors, the strategies to be used to help you are written down in a comprehensive plan. This plan is called a 504 Plan or an IEP depending on your child's individual situation.
Other ways you can help your child with school work at home include establishing and maintaining a routine for completing homework and setting realistic and clear expectations. Also remember other members of your support team, such as a therapist or academic coach, can help your child reach academic and other goals.
Cognitive and Behavior Therapy
Cognitive or behavior therapy can help your child to learn positive behaviors and change negative behaviors. This kind of therapy can work well with children because it takes a very concrete and practical approach to behavior. To learn if cognitive therapy would benefit your child you should talk to a health care professional.
Toolbox: Cognitive therapy
An ADHD coach can provide you and your child with individualized recommendations that will work with your family to help your child manage daily tasks such as personal hygiene, chores and homework and to help develop social and organization skills and coping strategies, as well as reduce impulsive behaviors.
Toolbox: ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO)
People with ADHD come from all different genders, races, and ethnicities!