ADHD is short for
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (uh-TEN-shun
DEF-uh-sit HYE-pur-ak-TIV-uh-tee dis-ORD-ur). ADHD makes it hard to sit still,
pay attention, take turns, and finish things. It is one of the most common
chronic (long-term) problems of childhood.
All children have problems behaving sometimes.
Children with ADHD have a very hard time behaving a
lot of the time. They usually have problems behaving in
school and at home.
The cause of ADHD is not clear. We know the brain
works a little differently in a child with ADHD. We also know it runs in
families. There is no cure, but we are learning more every day. Children who get
treatment can do very well.
Symptoms of ADHD
A child with ADHD may have one or more of these
Has trouble paying attention
Daydreams and is easily distracted
Can't get organized and forgets
Is moving almost all the time
Has trouble sitting still, squirms, and
talks too much
Hyperactivity and impulsivity go together. Or maybe
the child just has trouble paying attention. Most children with ADHD have all
the problems above.
Finding Out If Your Child Has ADHD
If your child has ADHD, the symptoms will:
Happen in more than one place, like home,
school, team sports, and camps.
Be worse than in other children the same
Start before your child is 7 years old.
Last more than 6 months.
Make it hard for your child to do well at
school and in other group activities.
Call your child's doctor if you think your
child may have ADHD. The doctor will talk with you both and check your
You should know:
It is hard to diagnose ADHD in children
younger than 6 years.
The doctor will ask about how your child
behaves at home, school, and other places. The doctor may have you or
your child's teacher fill out a form to learn about your
There are other problems that have the same
symptoms as ADHD. And some children have ADHD with other behavior
problems, like not obeying, anxiety, learning problems, or
Are There Medical Tests for ADHD?
There is no proven medical test for ADHD at this
time. Blood tests; computer tests; x-rays, like MRIs or CAT scans; or brain-wave
tests don't help diagnose ADHD. Your child's doctor may have other
reasons for ordering these tests. Ask the doctor if you have questions.
There is no cure for ADHD. But there are many good
treatments to help your child. As a parent, you are very important in the
Your child's doctor will help you make a
long-term plan for managing your child's ADHD. The plan will have:
Goals (often called “target
outcomes”). Example: better schoolwork
Activities to help reach your child's
goals. Examples: taking medicine, making changes at school and at
Ways to check your child's progress
toward the goals.
Most ADHD plans include:
Medicine. For most children, drugs
called stimulants (STIM-yuh-lints) are safe and work well. They speed up the
signals in your child's brain. This helps your child focus and can help
other symptoms too. There may be other medicines that the doctor suggests. The
doctor may prescribe these instead of stimulants, or
together with stimulants.
Behavior therapy. This helps parents,
teachers, and other caregivers learn better ways to relate to the child with
ADHD. You will learn how to set and enforce rules. And your child will learn
better ways to control his or her behavior.
Working with the school. Treatment
works best when everyone works as a team. The team should include doctors,
parents, teachers, caregivers, and children themselves. Talk with the teacher or
principal if you think your child needs more help.
By law, public schools must:
Pay for testing for a child with learning
Use teaching methods that meet
Give extra help when needed.
It may take time to find the right treatment for
your child. And treatment may not get rid of all the ADHD problems. But
treatment with both medicine and behavior therapy helps most school-aged
children with ADHD.
What Else Should Parents Know?
You are not alone. There are parent
training and support groups for ADHD. These can be a great help. Being the
parent of a child with ADHD can be hard. Seek counseling if you feel overwhelmed
or hopeless. Ask your child's doctor where you can find this kind of
Answers to Common Questions
Will my child outgrow ADHD?
ADHD usually lasts into adulthood. People with
ADHD can live good, productive lives. Having lots of energy can help in some
Do children get “high” on stimulants?
Stimulants don’t make
children high. They don't make children sleepy or
“dopey” either. But it's important for your child to
get the right kind and amount of medicine for him or her. That's why
regular doctor visits are important.
Do schools put children on ADHD medicines?
Sometimes teachers are the first to notice signs
of ADHD. But only a doctor can say whether your child has ADHD and order
medicine for it.
Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics. All rights reserved.