Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty modulating attention where the child may be inattentive during certain activities and hyper-focused during others, difficulty controlling behavior, and challenges regulating activity levels. Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are key hallmarks of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive at times, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often leading to social emotional and/or academic impacts. Although it is not a diagnostic feature, research is growing that also considers the relationship between ADHD and emotion dysregulation, as children with ADHD may also have increased difficulties managing their emotions. Other symptoms of ADHD are commonly seen in executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills are those related to planning; organization; memory; as well as monitoring, initiating, and completing tasks among others. Children with ADHD may experience difficulties demonstrating these skills in the home and/or at school.

Recognizing ADHD symptoms and seeking help early will lead to better outcomes for both affected children and their families. There are three types of ADHD (i.e., predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and combined). Understanding which type a child has can assist with properly tailoring interventions and supports. Diagnosis of ADHD requires a qualified mental health professional to gather information about the child, their behavior, and environment. No single test can diagnose a child as having ADHD, and many other problems, like anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms. ADHD evaluations include a combination of in-office testing procedures; questionnaires completed by parents, teachers, and children; and clinical observations. 

The type, duration, and frequency of supports will vary depending on each child and their specific presentation of ADHD. Evidence-based supports can include school-based evaluations for Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 Plans when academic challenges are present. For moderate to severe presentations, specific instruction in reading strategies, organizing writing, proper steps to complete math problems, or other academic skills may be necessary. Other school-based supports may include taking breaks, alternative seating (e.g., wobble stool, fidget bands), and extended time on testing.

In presentations that also show emotion dysregulation, therapy with a trained mental health professional may help children better understand, express, and manage their feelings. Many children with ADHD benefit from executive functioning supports, either behavioral or academic, that help them learn to self-regulate and use strategies for keeping track of their work or breaking down tasks.

Explore the executive functioning services offered at WCP and other types of therapy provided. Research suggests that coupling interventions such as those outlined above with medication optimize outcomes for children with ADHD. Although including medication is always the caregiver’s decision, in many cases medication can give the brain the “boost” it needs to better learn and apply the skills gleaned in other interventions. Speaking with a child psychiatrist, pediatrician, or other trained healthcare provider is essential for deciding the best type and dose of medication.

Other posts about ADHD can be found on the WCP blog.

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