Every day, millions of parents wonder if their son’s hyper behavior is a normal product of age and gender, or if it’s something that needs to be addressed with a doctor. If you’ve been wondering the same thing, you’re not alone. Indeed, it can be difficult for even the most conscientious parents to tell what is typical, and what is not.
A lot of the behaviors listed as symptoms of ADHD are also normal child-like behaviors, such as impatience, difficulty listening, and being frequently “on the move.” The way your son sometimes behaves may be frustrating, exhausting, even a little worrisome, but your chances are very good that he doesn’t have either ADD or ADHD.
But How Do I Know?
ADHD has been under serious study for many years, and the basis for diagnosis has been debated and researched for just as long. Careful study has led to a list of 18 symptoms. To reach a diagnosis of ADD, a patient must be exhibiting at least 6 of them. For a confident diagnosis of ADHD (a sub-type of ADD), that number rises to 12. While a boy who has trouble sitting still and enjoys being social with those around him might frustrate his parents, he most likely doesn’t have ADHD. But you might have grounds for a doctor’s evaluation if your child:
- Has significant trouble staying seated
- Runs around at inappropriate times
- Has behavioral and/or academic problems at school
- Intrudes in others’ activities and conversations
If your son seems to get hyper often, you may want to evaluate him for possible food sensitivities. Some kids react to certain things in their diet — such as sugar or artificial colors — with hyperactivity. Kids who lack Omega-3 fatty acids may also have trouble focusing. Talk to your family doctor or pediatrician about your son’s symptoms. Keep track of when they occur in relation to what he has eaten, and this may provide some direction in narrowing down what foods may be problematic.
If you don’t think food sensitivities are an issue, consider the consistency of his behavior issues. Are problems occasional or constant? Does your son get distracted enough at school that he occasionally doesn’t finish an assignment, or is it happening all the time? Is your child able to generally stay in his seat, or is he almost never where he is supposed to be?
Your child may be developing at a different rate than other kids, taking more or less time to “grow out” of restless kinds of behavior. Typical kids sometimes have behavior problems. They sometimes act in appropriately or have trouble paying attention. However, kids who have ADD or ADHD experience these challenges on a daily basis. They aren’t lazy or unintelligent. Their minds are simply jumping from one thing to another, keeping them from focusing on one task, one place, or one instruction for long.
In addition to symptoms related to hyperactivity or inattention, kids with ADD or ADHD are often disorganized or forgetful. While every child will sometimes lose things, kids with these disorders will do it more often. They may also have trouble keeping their emotions in check, causing them to become disproportionately angry, worried, or sad in the face of normal life challenges.
If you are worried that your son is exhibiting a combination of behaviors that may rise to the level of a disorder, start by having a conversation with your pediatrician. He or she can help you decide if further testing is warranted, based on symptoms and other factors. If a problem is suspected that isn’t due to some physical illness, you may be referred to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or behavior specialist for diagnosis. They can help you determine whether your son’s challenges are due to some type of ADHD or ADD or something else (such as depression or trauma).
Options for Treatment
If your son is diagnosed with ADHD, work with his doctor to determine the best avenue for treatment. There are many prescribed medications, supplements, and behavioral management techniques that are very successful in treating attention deficit disorders in both kids and teens. While these options will not cure the condition, they can help kids do much better in school, at home, and in social situations. Usually, a combination of medication and behavior therapy is the best route for kids with moderate ADHD. For more severe cases, treatment centers can be extremely successful.
ADHD certainly provides challenges to kids and their families. However, with a little bit of help and support from you and their doctor, these kids can succeed in school and life.