Recognizing the symptoms of ADHD
September 17, 2020
As a parent, you may have noticed your child fidgeting or having trouble paying attention, and wondered if these are signs of ADHD. How can you tell the difference between normal behaviour and ADHD?
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that usually first emerges during childhood. It is the most common childhood disorder, and is characterized by a number of symptoms related to hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention, which have an impact on social, family and school life. Here are some examples:
Manifestations that evolve with age
The first signs and symptoms can appear in early childhood. They become more apparent as the child grows, especially as they start school. From adolescence onward, children tend to interiorize their restlessness, which makes it less visible.
When to see a doctor
Before rushing to the doctor at the first signs of restlessness or inattention, take some time to observe your child, what kinds of situations trigger this behaviour and how it impacts their life.
For example, if your child often forgets certain instructions, it could simply be that they received too much information at once. “Go brush your teeth, and pick up that glass on the kitchen table. Oh, and also, don’t forget to put away the book that’s on the couch and put your dirty clothes in the hamper!” Oof! You can be sure they’re going to forget half of that. Also make sure that your child understands what you’re asking them to do.
Moreover, a child’s attention span is generally about three to five minutes per year of their age. For example, six-year-olds can concentrate and focus well for a period of about 18 minutes. So it’s normal if their attention starts to fade when homework time drags on longer than that.
However, it’s a good idea to consult your physician if:
- You notice that several signs or symptoms are present for at least six months.
- Their behaviour interferes with their ability to function at school or with their friends.
- Their behaviour is not age-appropriate (e.g., it’s normal for a four-year-old to move from one game or toy to another frequently).
- This behaviour is part of the way they function in general and is not specific to one environment or person in particular (e.g., with only one parent or only at school).
An ADHD diagnosis is typically made by a physician, a psychologist, a neuropsychologist or a child psychiatrist. Beware of self‑diagnosis and the judgments of educators and teachers!
How does it work?
Several kinds of evaluations are necessary, so you should expect a few appointments. Different people in the child’s life will also have to fill out a questionnaire in order to get a fuller picture.
Additional examinations may be necessary depending on the results of the questionnaires. It is not unusual to find anxiety disorders, behaviour disorders or oppositional defiant disorder.
You can get an evaluation through the public health system or in a private clinic. Wait times and costs may be significant, so it’s important to do your research on the services in your region.
Family coaching: Tools to help you function better!
It might be tempting sometimes to just ignore certain inappropriate behaviours because a child has ADHD… but ADHD doesn’t excuse everything! There are strategies that can help your child improve their adapted behaviours and control the problematic ones. Psychoeducational assistance can give parents and children tools to deal with a number of issues, including:
- Time management and homework planning
- Emotional management
- Social skills
People with ADHD are so much more than their disorder.
Professional support is available. For example, families who open an RESP with Kaleido have access to the Stepping Stone Program, which offers six hours of family coaching a year with a professional team in the field of education. Look into your options!
Useful resources and references
- Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance
- ADHD – Information, tips and tricks
- CHU Sainte-Justine
- Naître et grandir
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC)
- Hébert, Ariane. TDA/H : la boîte à outils. Éditions de Mortagne. 2015. 172 p. (in French)
- Duclos, Germain and Lessard, Louise. TDAH et estime de soi. Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine. 2019. 204 p. (in French)