Many people misunderstand Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and confuse what this means for a child. Just like a puppy exploring the world for the first time, all children can be excitable, curious and impulsive. They can get themselves into trouble by activing before they think. When this happens occasionally it can be considered a normal part of child development. However if a child is consistently getting themselves into trouble for excessive levels of energy and not stopping to consider the consequences it may be time to seek a professional opinion from a Child Psychologist.
Although the name ADHD would suggest concentration is the primary concern in such children, impulsivity is actually the hallmark feature of this condition. These individuals can often get themselves into mischief even before they realise what has happened. Their thoughts and ideas can come so rapidly that they are overwhelmed and distracted. They struggle with impulse control to block out distractions which leads to inattention in the classroom.
If we imagine that everyone has a 'stop sign' in their mind which helps them to think before acting we can begin to understand what it can be like for children with ADHD. For example, if you are driving in your car and get cut off in traffic you may automatically have an urge to react in a "not so civil way". But your 'stop sign' in your mind comes up and tells you to calm down.
Everyone has something like this 'stop sign', even children with ADHD. However children with this condition have a slower 'stop sign' than everyone else. By the time their 'stop sign' tells them to stop they have already gone ahead with their urge and landed themselves in a huge mess. At that stage they can then feel quite remorseful and guilty regarding their actions. This can lead to self-esteem issues later in life.
It is important to remember that ADHD is a neurological condition which means such children are wired to respond differently to other individuals. They are often oversensitive to rewards and very resistant to consequence or punishment. This means that they can be very motivated to earn incentives but not respond much to losing privileges. They can be quite eager to please and do the right thing but their automatic urges take over before their 'stop sign' can help them out. This means children with ADHD need to be managed in different ways to the average child and this is where Psychologists can help.
Of course, when considering if a child has a diagnosis such as ADHD a thorough assessment is always important. There is a lot of controversy regarding the over-diagnosis of this condition. Other disorders such as Dyslexia or anxiety can mimic some of the symptoms of ADHD so we need to make sure the correct needs are identified. It's important to remember that those who genuinely have ADHD can struggle on a day to day basis and can benefit from the help of professionals. A comprehensive diagnosis of ADHD by a Child Psychologist can include an intellectual assessment, observations, clinical interview and neuropsychological assessment.
If you are interested in information regarding a comprehensive assessment by a Child Psychologist please call us on 02 4929 2223 and we would be happy to help.
Child Psychologist Daniel Wendt is the Principal Clinical Psychologist of Oracle Psychology in Newcastle, NSW.