Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common disorders among young people. It affects attention span and concentration and can also affect how impulsive and active the person is.
Most young people are, at times, inattentive, distractible, impulsive or highly active. They may have ADHD if such behaviours occur more frequently and are more severe than is considered average among young people of the same age or developmental level. A diagnosis of ADHD might also result if the behaviours persist over time and negatively affect the person’s family and his or her social and school life.
Studies have shown different rates of ADHD among young people, ranging from one per cent to 13 per cent. ADHD is three to four times more common in boys than girls.
Although aggression is not specifically a symptom of ADHD, the disorder is often diagnosed in young people who behave aggressively. Studies have not shown exactly how ADHD and aggression in young people are linked. Some behaviours that are not clearly defined symptoms of ADHD, but have been shown to be associated with it, may lead to aggression.
The symptoms of ADHD fall into two main groups: inattentive behaviours and hyperactive and impulsive behaviours. Young people may be diagnosed with ADHD if, for the past six months or more, they have displayed six or more symptoms of either inattentive behaviours or hyperactive or impulsive behaviours.
While there is no consensus about precisely what causes ADHD, it is believed that the most likely cause is genetics. Children born into families where there is a history of ADHD are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children where there is no family history of ADHD. While there have been attempts to link parenting style, exposure to television at a young age and exposure to environmental hazards as a cause of ADHD, there has yet to be any conclusive evidence that they cause the disorder.
A number of treatment interventions are effective in helping young people with ADHD. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help build self-esteem, reduce negative thoughts and improve problem-solving skills. CBT can also help people learn self-control and improve their social skills.
Parents can learn how to better manage their children’s behaviour by taking parent management skills training. Educators can design programs for young people with ADHD to encourage success rather than failure and to address any co-existing learning disabilities that students might have, such as difficulty with reading. A child who is diagnosed with ADHD and treated appropriately can have a productive and successful life.
If you work or volunteer with young people who have (or who you think might have) ADHD, these tips might be helpful:
In a classroom setting:
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