Americans with Disabilities - ADHD

Did you know that in the average classroom in the United States at least one child has ADHD? As of 2007, an estimated 2.7 million children between the ages of four and 17 were taking medicine for ADHD. One of the most frequently diagnosed childhood disorders, up to 60 percent of kids with ADHD will continue to be affected into adulthood. ADHD is more prevalent in boys than in girls. Adults as well as children can be diagnosed with the disorder. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that approximately 40 percent of children with ADHD have a parent who has ADHD as well. ADHD is very prevalent in the United States in particular.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder though the person who suffers from it is not necessarily hyperactive. It is a chronic neurobehavioral disorder. There are different forms of this disorder including: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. The differences between the three forms depend on the number of symptoms that are present in terms of hyperactive-impulsive and inattention. The most prevalent of the three types is the combined hyperactivity-impulsive and inattentive category. The children in this category have at least six hyperactive-impulsive symptoms (such as talking nonstop and being extremely impatient) and at least six inattentive symptoms (such as difficulty trying to follow directions and difficulty focusing on just one thing). Children that suffer from the predominantly inattentive form of the disorder are less likely to have difficulty getting along with other people and are less likely to misbehave. They are able to quietly sit but are not are not necessarily focusing on what they are doing. It is easy for teachers and parents to overlook the fact that this child may have ADHD. If a child's ADHD falls into this category, there are less than six hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, but at least six inattentive symptoms. They can still have some hyperactive-impulsive symptoms though. The predominantly hyperactive-impulsive category child exhibits six or more hyperactive-impulsive symptoms but less than six inattention symptoms. Yet some inattention symptoms may be present.

Symptoms and Signs of ADHD

Everyone shows signs of ADHD from time to time. Sometimes focusing on tasks can be very difficult and people are easily distracted. As previously stated the three forms of ADHD have three types of symptoms which are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Symptoms of inattention can include: being easily distracted, trouble paying attention to details and often making careless mistakes, rarely following directions entirely or correctly, forgetting necessary items in order to complete a task such as a pencil, procrastination, and disorganized work habits. Impulsivity symptoms can include: the inability to control impulses such as making inappropriate comments, yelling answers to questions before the entire question is read, hitting other people, reckless behavior which puts themselves in danger, and problems waiting their turn. Finally, symptoms of hyperactivity include: excessive or non-stop talking, problems sitting still such as squirming or fidgeting, a need to get up often and move around when sitting is expected, and problems playing in a quiet manner or participating in quiet leisure activities.

Hallmarks of ADHD

All of us forget and misplace things from time to time; we have days where we can't seem to focus on our work. The difference between someone with ADHD and someone without it has to do with how often these things occur and whether they are a consistent problem. It is extremely difficult for people with ADHD to stay focused on necessary tasks and to control their behavior. It affects not only the task at hand but their entire lives. Their emotions are affected as well as their schoolwork or job. More driving accidents happen when the young driver has ADHD. The hallmark signs of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Luckily experts believe that at least the hyperactivity part of the disorder will decrease as a child ages, but the inattention and organization problems will most likely continue.

What Causes ADHD?

Have you ever heard anyone say that ADHD is caused by watching too much television or eating too much sugar? These statements are myths and have no validity to them. The National Institute on Mental Health states that these mythical factors as well as food allergies, poor schools and a poor life at home are not known to cause ADHD. Brain research studies have found that ADHD appears to be a problem with the functioning of the frontal cortex of the brain which controls attention and focus. The activity levels in that particular area seem to be below what is considered normal. There are other factors that can contribute to ADHD as well.

There appears to be a genetic factor with ADHD. As stated previously, often children with ADHD have a parent with ADHD as well. Also if a child who is a twin has a diagnosis of ADHD, there is a 90 percent chance their twin has the disorder as well. The evidence that ADHD is inherited continues to increase. There also seems to be a link between ADHD and substance use (such as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes) during pregnancy. In addition, exposure to toxins such as lead is thought to be a factor. Evidence shows that children who were born with birthing complications or weighed less than about three pounds may be more likely to suffer from ADHD. Also a resistance to thyroid hormones has been linked by studies to hyperactivity and the inability to control impulses. Head injuries or trauma have also been found to lead to ADHD.

How is ADHD Treated?

There is no cure for ADHD, yet medication and behavioral therapy are both excellent treatment options that can help people to control their ADHD symptoms. People with the proper treatment plan can function much better at work or at school. Treatment for the disorder can be only ADHD medication or only behavioral modification therapy or a combination of both. Each person is unique and must find the plan that works best for them.

Medication

When ADHD was first discovered, Ritalin was the drug prescribed to help with it. Now there are many more medication options. There are short-acting medications which are an immediate release of the drug, intermediate-acting which last a little longer than the short-acting, and long-acting which last the for the longest amount of time. Sometimes the medication is really only necessary for a little while and in this instance the short-acting type is best. There are stimulant and non-stimulant medications that are frequently used to help with ADHD. Stimulants help the user to be able to focus and tune out distractions. They have been found to be helpful in 70 to 80 percent of patients and are prescribed for cases considered moderate to severe. Some of these drugs are approved for children over three years of age while others are approved for children over six years. Some common stimulant drugs prescribed to treat ADHD include: Concerta, Adderall and Ritalin. Concerta and Adderall XR are both FDA-approved for adults. Sometimes the side effects of these stimulants are very unpleasant or the drugs don't work, so non-stimulant drugs become an option such as Strattera or Intuniv. These drugs are helpful in controlling impulses and improving focus. When both stimulants and non-stimulant medications are not working for whatever reason, there are a few other drug options as well. Tricyclic antidepressants, Wellbutrin and Effexor can also be useful in treating ADHD. As with all medications, side-effects can be a problem. It is always trial and error to find the right medication and dosage for each person that works best for them.

Counseling and Other Therapies

Many experts agree that a combination of ADHD medication and behavioral modification therapy are best for treating ADHD. In this type of therapy kids learn how to cope with difficult situations for them. Rewards and appropriate punishments are used to aid behavior modification. Psychotherapy can also be a great way to help people with ADHD. In this instance people are able to discuss their problems in life as well as negative behavioral patterns and learn how to change them and manage their symptoms. ADHD does not have to ruin a person's life. With the help of medication and/or therapy, people can live wonderful, productive lives while having ADHD.