Dr. Steve: Recognizing the signs of ADHD

Dr. Steve Lydiatt is a monthly columnist with the Penticton Western News.

Jason is seven years old and on the go from early in the morning until late at night.

He starts getting dressed at 6 a.m. but he’s still not ready when it’s time to leave for school. Jason gets easily distracted, can never find his things, and forgets what he is supposed to do. At school he has trouble staying in his seat. He gets frustrated quickly and can’t concentrate for very long on his work, so he is falling behind.

Lately he’s been saying, “school is boring, the work is dumb,” and that he doesn’t want to go.

There is a good possibility that Jason may be a person with ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the highest diagnoses families experience across North America. Depending on the descriptors used, attention deficit (AD) can be the only diagnosis or hyperactive behaviours (HD) might be added. Basic attention deficit tends to be the minor diagnosis where a child is quiet yet easily distracted and off task. Inattention over time can have a detrimental effect on a child’s learning capacity.

The addition of hyperactivity presents a more challenging issue for parents and educators since the constant movement adds an additional level of concern. The addition of hyperactivity tends to appear in children as being off-task most of the time. Over time, the hyperactive child can become discouraged because of the constant efforts by adults to redirect their behaviours.

Reasons why ADHD occurs varies from diet effects to family dynamics or environmental effects. For example, within families where turmoil and abuse are present, this can affect a child by creating high levels of anxiety, often observed as ADHD type behaviors.

Intervention approaches often involve medication(s) along with adjustments for home and school settings. Medications tend to be of two types: one that has an immediate result and fades during the day; another takes several weeks. A well-balanced approach for ADHD involves trial medication along with a clear and consistent home and school-based program.

Parents and teachers can help children and teens with ADHD:

  • Take them for who they are since it can be difficult to change due to the influences of the ADHD.
  • Look for their strengths and encourage these as they might help for other issues.
  • Praise efforts even if not finished, complete or totally successful.
  • Slow start for new things. Use small steps to work towards finalizing the skill or new ideas.
  • Have reasonable expectations based on your understanding of the effects of the ADHD. This does not mean lowering to a very low level, just set reachable goals and support their efforts to reach them.

Recent work and research has added a new dimension to the ADHD condition; executive functioning.

Executive functioning is the ability to monitor one’s thoughts, ideas and actions before, during and after an event or situation has taken place. The degree to which this skill develops depends on several influences: opportunities to be involved in self reflection, partnering with others who use these skills and observing effective peers.

Special programs have been developed and utilized in schools, clinics and other settings with positive results for people with attention and overactive behaviors; and for student also identified as having a Learning Disability (LD). The May article will focus on Executive Functioning with suggestions for helping students.

Dr. Steve Lydiatt is a monthly columnist with the Penticton Western News. He is a practising educational psychologist providing assessments and specialized interventions for children, students and adults. During his career he has been a swim coach, teacher, consultant in Autism, university professor, and a Director of a Center for Disabilities. Specialized areas: learning disabilities, children’s behaviour issues (ADHD) and people with special needs. Reach him at drtsve.educistics@gmail.com.

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