This topic is an important one, and it answers a lot of unasked questions with regards to the reason some children behave the way they do. ADHD is not a disease or a consequence of brain damage, but it’s a dysfunction that means the brain doesn’t function in the way it should. Over the years, scientific studies have shown how ADHD may affect certain areas of the brain that allow us to solve problems, understand other’s actions, plan ahead and control our impulses. It typically begins in childhood and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
Children who have ADHD are restless and can’t sit still or do one thing for very long. They are easily distracted. Because they find it so hard to pay attention, they may often be criticized for being careless and making too many mistakes at school. They appear not to listen when someone is talking to them, find it hard to wait their turn and can be disruptive in their play. Some children with ADHD can concentrate for longer periods on things which really interest them, for example computer games, but can be easily distracted. Of course, all children behave impulsively and find it hard to concentrate sometimes. But with ADHD, this behavior is persistent and occurs wherever the child is, not just in one place such as school or at home. Symptoms usually start when a child is a toddler and always before they reach the age of six or seven.
Children can have ADHD in varying degrees of severity, and sometimes it is found together with other conditions. But it is important to understand that just because a child is naughty or defiant or aggressive it does not always mean that he or she has ADHD. There may well be other reasons for this kind of behavior: the child may be anxious or there may be problems in the family or school.
WHAT CAUSES ADHD?
Most experts believe ADHD results from a problem in the part of the brain which controls our impulses and our capacity to concentrate. However the picture is complicated. It is probable that a combination of factors can lead to the difficulties the child experiences, factors within the child and between the child and his family.
WHY IS ADHD A PROBLEM?
Children with ADHD can sometimes behave in ways that are very challenging and hard to manage. They can be very exhausting for parents and siblings — the whole family may become very stressed — and this can lead to further problems. Because children with ADHD have concentration difficulties, they find it hard to learn at school.
Whatever their level of intelligence, they may often feel ‘no good’ or ‘stupid’. If nothing is done, their education suffers. They can also be very irritating to other children, so they may find it hard to make friends. They often feel lonely, unloved or disliked. This can lead to some children becoming more aggressive over time. As they get older, children with ADHD may seek out friends with similar difficulties, and may start to get into serious trouble.
DO PEOPLE GROW OUT OF ADHD?
Some children grow out of ADHD; others have problems that continue into adolescence and beyond. Approximately two out of five children with ADHD continue to have difficulties at age 18. The main symptoms of ADHD, such as attention difficulties, may improve as children get older, but behavioral problems such as disobedience or aggression may become worse if a child does not receive help. In particular, boys who are hyperactive and aggressive tend to become unpopular with other children. It is therefore very important for children to receive help as early as possible, to prevent them from getting socially isolated and from developing other emotional and behavior problems that can persist into adult life.
WHAT PROBLEMS DO WE HAVE IN RECOGNISING IT?
There is a sad truth that’s prevalent in this part of the world. Children with such issues are overlooked and other factors are blamed for such misbehaviors. Only a few people really think the situation’s bad enough to take the child to go see a psychiatrist and most people would rather go see a pastor or similar religious head. This lack of recognition and subsequent presentation and treatment has dire implications to the health and future of the African child and hopefully that mindset changes for the better and soon.
DOES MEDICATION HELP?
For some it does, but most importantly, early recognition and probable behavioral therapy as well as follow up in schools and at home could help a lot of children with ADHD grow out of it and go ahead to become well-meaning citizens in their communities.
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