Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children

  • Overview

    Is your son a constant bundle of energy … always moving, unable to sit still, even for a few moments? Is your daughter easily distracted and forgetful, tending to frequently “have her head in the clouds”?

    Maybe you’ve tried to calm your child down, or urged him to focus. You may have attempted to increase his nightly hours of sleep, adjusted his diet or encouraged him to get more physical exercise—yet nothing appears to be working. 

    It’s normal for all kids to have trouble focusing (and behaving) at one time or another. For children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), however, these symptoms seem to be constantly present and can cause ongoing problems at home, at school and with friends. 

    If your child has ADHD, you might feel frustrated and at a loss for what to do. It may seem like she’s always losing homework or having trouble following teachers’ instructions, or she may have difficulty making friends and getting along with other family members. Learning as much as you can about ADHD is a great first step to identifying the methods that will allow your child work to her full potential—at home, in school and with peers. 

    Here are some key facts about ADHD: 

    • ADHD is classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (a standard reference) as a behavior disorder.
       
    • However, ADHD is also considered a neurodevelopmental disorder because it is stems from biological problems with the brain functions that control emotions and learning.
       
    • ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in childhood, affecting an estimated 5 to 7 percent of all school-age children according to many studies which go back 50 years or more.
       
    • ADHD affects different kids in different ways: some children may be able to function relatively well with minimal treatment, while others may need more extensive care to manage their symptoms.
       
    • If left untreated, ADHD can lead to significant problems, including:
    • While the symptoms of ADHD may change—and in some instances, improve— as your child grows, the most recent research suggests that up to 40 percent of children with ADHD continue to experience problems into adulthood.
       
    • The good news is that ADHD responds well to a combination of behavioral modification and medication. Early detection and intervention will enhance your child's growth and development, and improve her quality of life in the long term.

    How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

    If you are a parent seeking essential information about treatment for ADHD—as well as guidance in helping your child live an active, healthy life while managing this disorder—you’re in the right place. The expert clinicians in Children’s Division of Developmental Medicine, Department of Neurology and Department of Psychiatry have many years of experience caring for children and adolescents with ADHD. 

    The Developmental Medicine Center within Boston Children’s Division of Developmental Medicine:

    • provides neurodevelopmental assessments for children, ages 3 to 6, with mild to severe attentional problems through the Preschool Age Program
    • offers comprehensive evaluations for children, between the ages of 7 and 10, with attention difficulties through the School-Age Program
    • conducts multidisciplinary, neurodevelopmental assessments for children, between the ages of 11 and 17, with attentional challenges through the Adolescent Program
    • provides ongoing, comprehensive treatment for children with ADHD through it’s ADHD Program 

    In addition, the Department of Neurology at Boston Children’s is home to a Learning Disabilities Program that:

    • brings together Boston Children’s experts in pediatric neurology, neuropsychology, speech/language pathology and psychology, as well as in language (written and oral) and mathematics education
    • performs comprehensive evaluations of school-aged children who are experiencing academic, cognitive and behavioral challenges
    • educates parents, teachers and other physicians about understanding and working with children who have ADHD and other conditions that impact learning
    • has published an in-depth guide for families

    Meanwhile, Boston Children’s Department of Psychiatry:

    • has a specialized Neuropsychology Program that assesses children to determine if a medically- or biologically-based problem is contributing to their thinking, learning or behavioral issues
    • offers psychotherapy, counseling and other non-medication-based behavioral health interventions through the Psychosocial Treatment Clinic
    • has a devoted Psychopharmacology Clinic to help clinicians and families decide whether psychiatric medication might be a beneficial addition to a child’s treatment plan

    Having convenient access to multiple specialists across Boston Children’s—all working together to design the treatment plan that best fits your child—ensures that you, your child and your entire family will receive the medical, emotional and educational support you need. 

    Better information means better treatment for ADHD

    Routine and systematic monitoring of your child is a must for effective treatment of ADHD, but it's often difficult for doctors to track a child's progress both at home and at school. In response to this dilemma, Boston Children's physicians have developed a web-based ADHD symptom tracker and medication side-effect assessment tool.

    ADHD:
    Reviewed by William Barbaresi, MD; Leonard Rappaport, MD, MS; and David Urion, MD
    © Children’s Hospital Boston, posted in 2011

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