Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common mental disorder among children, affecting 3-5 percent of school-age individuals according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
ADHD can make concentration and learning difficult, to children it may seem impossible. Poor marks in school can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and, consequently, a deterioration of social skills. With lowered self-esteem, the likelihood of teenagers suffering with ADHD turning to alcohol and drugs skyrockets (Teenagers and Drug Use). Without some form of treatment, ADHD can cause new problems and challenges to emerge within school as well as create dangers associated with teenage substance abuse.
Symptoms of ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD are divided into inattentiveness, and hyperactivity and impulsivity (This list has been aggregated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information).
The types of ADHD children and teenagers present can vary significantly. Most children with ADHD primarily show signs of the inattentive type, while some show signs of the hyperactive-impulsive type, and still others can present signs of both inattentiveness and hyperactive-impulsivenss.
- Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork
- Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play
- Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace
- Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork)
- Often loses toys, assignments, pencils, books, or tools needed for tasks or activities
- Is easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities
- Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
- Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
- Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations
- Has difficulty playing quietly
- Is often “on the go,” acts as if “driven by a motor,” talks excessively
- Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
- Has difficulty awaiting turn
- Interrupts or intrudes on others (butts into conversations or games)
Treatments Options for ADHD
Although ADHD is a common disorder there is still a lot to learn especially when it comes to the best treatment options. Prescribed medications such as Adderall and Ritalin are highly effective treatments but the use of pharmaceutical stimulants in children is a highly controversial topic because little is known about the long-term effects of the drugs. Also, some experts argue that there is an increase of dependency and possibly abuse of these drugs as the child gets older.
Behavioral therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is a non-medicated treatment focused on increasing the type of behavior the parents and teachers want to see by providing positive feedback. Counselors (Counseling Careers) can help teach parents how to begin this process and learn how to incorporate this method into their daily lives.
An alternative treatment gaining popularity is adjusting the child’s diet, eliminating certain foods and providing better nutrition in order to naturally reduce the effects of ADHD. Central Alternative High School in Appleton, Wisconsin chose to move away from the ordinary unhealthy school food options and provided healthier, minimally processed foods. The faculty has seen an immense change in the students and a major decline in serious issues plaguing the school. Calm behavior and increased focus in the classroom has replaced the aggression and vandalism that used to be the standard for the students at this high school. These results have given even more credit to the link between nutrition and ADHD. Some parents who have tried this method at home, have reported a positive change in behavior but there is little to work with in proven research.
The need for answers has led top ADHD researchers and organizations in the U.S. to begin long-term studies of treatment methods. For example, The National Institute of Mental Health is funding the comparative study of four ADHD treatments including medication, psychosocial/behavioral treatment, a combination of both, or routine community care. Despite differences in opinion, most professionals and experts can agree that a team based treatment approach is the most effective plan for children with ADHD.
Counselors working with ADHD children play an important role in creating this treatment team. They help the parents or guardians make educated decisions and seek out as many resources as possible available to them. This includes finding the right education system with knowledgeable school counselors who can help them navigate through their legal rights in order to receive the best education. For instance, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act helps design an Individual Education Plan, which is a learning system, tailored to each child. If the child qualifies, the counselor and education system work together to provide a comprehensive education adjusted to their specific needs. Even if they don’t qualify for these services, counselors become a critical link in communication between the child, teachers and parents.
A disorder that affects children and teens so severely such as ADHD requires the knowledge of experts to continually research and analyze the most effective treatments. Even with the information and understanding that we have today about this problem, there is still a lot left to learn. By actively pursuing a way to alleviate the adversity brought on by ADHD, those affected by the disorder and their families will have a better opportunity to live the lives they deserve.
Find out how you can become involved, request information from psychology schools or schools offering counseling programs. Also, learn more about the psychology career licensing processes and what the requirements for licensure are: Psychology Career Licensure.