What is ADHD?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th edition (DSM-5TM), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, characterizes ADHD as a manifestation of persistent patterns of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interfere with functioning or development:
Inattention: (6 or more symptoms for children up to age 16, or five or more symptoms for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of inattention must have been consistently manifested for at least 6 months)
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: (6 or more symptoms for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been consistently manifested for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level)
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
- Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
Additionally, these defining characteristics must have been present in the child prior to 12 years of age. These should also be present in at least two settings (e.g., home, school, work, church, mall, when with friends, etc.) and clear evidence must show that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, academic or occupational functioning. Lastly, the characteristics distinctive of ADHD should not manifest as a direct result of a mental or psychiatric disorder.
Based on its symptoms, three types of ADHD can occur:
- Combined Type: if enough symptoms of both criteria for inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity are present for the past 6 months
- Predominantly Inattentive Type: if enough symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, are present for the past six months
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: if enough symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, but not inattention, are present for the past six months.
Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.
Is ADHD an illness?
AnswerADHD is a neurological condition and a lifelong condition. It is NOT an illness; therefore, medication should not be sought in the hopes of curing it.
Why do doctors prescribe medication then?
AnswerFor some children/persons with ADHD, the hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention are so severe that it starts to hinder one’s accomplishment of tasks and/or daily living. For such instances, doctors sometimes prescribe medication to stimulate the production of neurotransmitters that help our brain focus and manage ourselves.
Does ADHD run in families?
AnswerYes. If a parent has ADHD, a child has more than a 50% chance of having it as well.
What do I do if I suspect my child to have ADHD?
AnswerVisit a specialist; i.e., a developmental pediatrician or psychologist, so that a diagnosis can either be properly made or ruled out. Also make sure to inform your child’s school teachers/adviser and school administrators so that your child can be helped accordingly.
Do I medicate or not?
AnswerMedication is a personal decision made by parents of children with ADHD or by the persons with ADHD themselves. It would have both benefits and disadvantages. On a positive note, medication has known to help persons with ADHD manage their ADHD-related difficulties, particularly attention and impulsivity. However, medication for persons with ADHD is not to be equated with regular medication where a fixed dosage would be the same for all. Developmental pediatricians would recommended a certain amount first; parents, teachers and therapists are then expected to give feedback on the effects on the child. This observation-feedback cycle would typically go on until such a time that all would notice positive, helpful changes on the child.
Where should my child be placed: in a SPED School or in a general education school?
AnswerBecause children with ADHD are highly creative people with at least average IQs, they must be placed in general education, i.e., “regular” schools. Sadly, not all teachers in a general set-up would know how to teach children with ADHD or manage their behaviors. As such, it is often recommended that they go to non-traditional/progressive schools with small class sizes instead. However, if your child is able to manage himself/herself well, then placement in a traditional school should not be a problem.
Do fish oils help?
AnswerResearch shows that fish oils do seem to help manage some of the characteristics of ADHD. However, these are not meant to cure, eliminate, or eradicate ADHD. As mentioned, ADHD is not an illness, therefore, no amount of medication or supplements can remove ADHD.
Do fidget cubes and fidget spinners help?
AnswerFidget cubes and fidget spinners are intended to help children with ADHD manage their tendency to continuously move or fidget. Although there have not been research studying the effects of these fidget materials per se, researchers have discovered that allowing children with ADHD to wriggle, bounce, move gently in place—in other words, to fidget—actually helps them successfully perform cognitively demanding tasks. If such materials are to be used in this manner, then yes, fidget cubes and fidget spinners may be helpful. However, if these are given to children with the expectation that the excessive movements will disappear, or if these are given as a toy, then the fidget cubes and spinners are being used inappropriately, and will thus, not necessarily be helpful for children with ADHD.