ADHD: The Science Behind it and How to Improve Your Focus
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, or being overly active. Research has demonstrated that ADHD has a very strong neurobiological basis. Although precise causes have not yet been identified, hereditary traits make the largest contribution to the expression of the disorder.
In instances where heredity does not seem to be a factor, difficulties during pregnancy, prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco, premature delivery, significantly low birth weight, excessively high body lead levels, and postnatal injury to the prefrontal regions of the brain have all been found to contribute to the risk for ADHD to varying degrees. Research does not support the popularly held views that ADHD arises from excessive sugar intake, excessive television viewing, poor child management by parents, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family chaos. Of course, many things, including these, might aggravate symptoms, especially in certain individuals.
Since we have now been able to identify the causes we can start tackling these problems. If you have a child that is struggling with ADHD or you generally have difficulties focusing, buckle up because we are going to discuss some strategies that could gravely improve this condition.
For children with ADHD younger than 6 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parent training in behavior management as the first line of treatment, before medication is tried. For children 6 years of age and older, the recommendations include medication and behavior therapy together — parent training in behavior management for children up to age 12 and other types of behavior therapy and training for adolescents. Schools can be part of the treatment as well. AAP recommendations also include adding behavioral classroom intervention and school support.
Medications exist and they are often used but as research shows they can affect children differently and can have side effects such as decreased appetite or sleep problems. One child may respond well to one medication, but not to another.
Tools that help
Along with therapy and medication, these are a few practical advice in tackling the condition:
- Create a routine. Try to follow the same schedule every day, from wake-up time to bedtime.
- Encourage your child to put school bags, clothing, and toys in the same place every day so that they will be less likely to lose them.
- Manage distractions. Turn off the TV, limit noise, and provide a clean workspace when your child is doing homework. Some children with ADHD learn well if they are moving or listening to background music. Watch your child and see what works.
- Limit choices. To help your child not feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, offer choices with only a few options. For example, have them choose between this outfit or that one, this meal or that one, or this toy or that one.
- Be clear and specific when you talk with your child. Let your child know you are listening by describing what you heard them say. Use clear, brief directions when they need to do something.
- Help your child plan. Break down complicated tasks into simpler, shorter steps. For long tasks, starting early and taking breaks may help limit stress.
- Use goals and praise or other rewards. Use a chart to list goals and track positive behaviors, then let your child know they have done well by telling them or by rewarding their efforts in other ways. Be sure the goals are realistic—small steps are important!
- Discipline effectively. Instead of scolding, yelling, or spanking, use effective directions, time-outs or removal of privileges as consequences for inappropriate behavior.
- Create positive opportunities. Children with ADHD may find certain situations stressful. Finding out and encouraging what your child does well—whether it’s school, sports, art, music, or play—can help create positive experiences.
- Provide a healthy lifestyle. Nutritious food, lots of physical activity, and sufficient sleep
Compassion and patience, trying different approaches and being there for your child is as always the best way to approach these difficult situations. I hope the article has been helpful.
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