ADHD or Spirited Child?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 11% (or 6.4 million) children in the United States were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2011. The number of children diagnosed with ADHD continues to rise. Some people attribute this to an increased awareness, while others blame over diagnosis.

This debate has led many parents ask themselves whether their child has ADHD or if they’re just a free spirit. In the past, parents would attribute the behavior of a zealous and enthusiastic child to the endless energy of youth, but an increased awareness of ADHD has parents asking if it’s something more serious.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common childhood brain disorders. Children affected by ADHD can have trouble focusing on specific tasks or activities, trouble paying attention, difficulties controlling their behavior, and excessive amounts of energy. These symptoms of ADHD can make it difficult for children to engage in certain social activities, perform well in school, or complete simple tasks. ADHD can continue through adulthood.

The exact causes of ADHD are unknown, but there have been suggested associations with genetics, brain injuries, and prenatal environmental factors. According to the NIMH, ADHD isn’t curable; however, there are treatments that can help manage the disorder.

Diagnosing ADHD can sometimes be difficult. Children are naturally energetic, curious, and excitable. Children also mature at different rates and have different personalities, adding another degree of difficulty in diagnosing the disorder. How do you tell the difference between an enthusiastic child and a child with ADHD?

While ADHD symptoms can appear as early as the age of 3, a child typically won’t be diagnosed with ADHD until the age of 5 or 6. There’s no single test that can determine whether or not a child has the disorder, so it takes time and multiple tests for a specialist to diagnose a child with ADHD.

A common gauge for determining whether or not a child has ADHD is by comparing a child’s behavior to the behavior of his or her peers. Are their behaviors excessive? Are they consistently excessive?

Comparing your child’s behavior to the behavior of other children is a good way to look for signs of ADHD, but it’s not an effective way of establishing whether or not your child has a disorder. If you think your child may show signs of ADHD, talk to your pediatrician.