Have you ever seen a child having a huge meltdown in public, attracting tutting, stares and harsh comments from strangers? That child could have a condition such as ADHD.
October is ADHD Awareness Month. It’s so important to not make a snap judgement about a child or their parent when you see them having what appears to be a tantrum in public. First of all, tantrums are normal for ALL children, but even more so for a child who struggles with self regulation due to a conditon such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
We’ll be taking a look at;
- What is ADHD?
- Common misconceptions about ADHD
- Where to seek support if you suspect you or your child has ADHD
- Coping with ADHD
We hope that this helps you all to understand ADHD a little bit better, and helps any of you mummies & daddies who are in the process of assessment & diagnosis for your little ones.
What IS ADHD?
ADHD stands for ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’. It can also be referred to as ADD if a professional feels the hyperactivity criteria isn’t quite met. There are three types of ADHD;
- Combined inattentive and hyperactive.
- Predominantly inattentive (sometimes called ADD)
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
- Impulsive behaviour
- Lack of attention to detail
- Difficulty sustaining attention
- Difficulty organising and self regulating
- Being easily distracted and forgetful
- Being very fidgety
- Excessive talking
- Always being ‘on the go’
- Interrupting and ‘blurting out’
- Difficulty waiting and taking turns
There’s no real known cause yet, but there is some indication that there is a genetic element which is understandable as it is a common comorbid condition alongside autism, which is primarily genetic. Other risk factors include;
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Smoking and alcohol/drug use in pregnancy
ADHD doesn’t affect your intellectual capacity – there are many people with ADHD and a very high IQ, although it can commonly occur alongside learning difficulties.
Common Misconceptions About ADHD
Yes, it is a real condition!
It is recognised by every mainstream medical organisation globally; ADHD is a real medical condition and not ‘just a label for naughty children’ as some sceptics claim. It’s understandable that some people see the symptoms as just ‘kids being kids’ but it’s important to consider that these symptoms need to be extreme enough to be causing impairment on day-to-day living for them to be considered significant enough for a diagnosis.
No, they’re not ‘just naughty’.
A child with ADHD does not want to act out. They struggle to self regulate as well as other neurotypical children, so they need a little extra time and help to restore calm. Don’t judge; offer support.
No, it isn’t ‘more common these days’.
It is just better understood and more recognised by professionals ergo more commonly diagnosed these days. Children and adults affected used to have zero support and were often subjected to humiliating and abusive treatment, isolation, and discrimination.
No, it isn’t ‘over diagnosed’.
The process of getting an assessment for and diagnosis of ADHD is actually pretty difficult with so many different factors to be evaluated and very strict diagnostic criteria. It isn’t a case of a doctor taking a few minutes of observing your child and then ‘labelling’ them. If a child has been diagnosed by a professional it is a valid diagnosis and not ‘just a label’ given as a cop out to excuse bad behaviour!
No, adults don’t always ‘grow out of it’.
ADHD is something that many adults in the UK live with. I myself am awaiting my own formal assessment; I was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in February 2019, and my assessor also spotted markers for ADHD (which is a common comorbidity of Autism). There is little provision for adult diagnosis under the NHS so I am still waiting for my appointment. I definitely didn’t grow out of my ADHD traits, but in some ways I’ve used it to my advantage, as I’m a successful adult. I’ve developed some great coping mechanisms so don’t fret if your child is diagnosed, as with patience and time it can be managed.
No, not ‘everyone is a little bit ADHD’.
It’s pretty common to have a trait or two, and the same applies to the autistic spectrum, but it isn’t true that everyone is a ‘little bit’ ADHD.
You either have ADHD (or another similar condition) or you do not. You have to meet strict criteria to be diagnosed with ADHD!
You can’t be ‘a little bit pregnant’, just as you can’t be ‘a little bit’ of any medical condition – this sweeping statement is actually dismissive and undermines the experience of people who are living with this condition (and again, the same for the autistic spectrum).
Seeking Support For Diagnosis
If you’re worried that your child might have ADHD/ADD, speak to your Health Visitor, GP, or childcare setting. They will be able to advise you and start the referral process if it’s deemed necessary by the first access point. The process and waiting list time may vary depending on your location.
It’s worth speaking to your Local Authority about an EHCP (Education, Health & Care Plan) even if your child is not yet diagnosed – this will mean that they can access some extra support. You can find out more about this here.
If you suspect you’ve gone under the radar and have ADHD yourself (quite common with adult females, and the same with autism!), speak to your GP and seek a second opinion if needed. You should be referred on to the nearest service, but be aware that there is very little provision for adults here in the UK so chances are you will be waiting a long time, and potentially need to travel.
Coping With ADHD
There’s no cure for ADHD, but there are ways that it can be managed.
- Medication may be offered if necessary.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is often beneficial for people with ADHD.
Developing a routine and coping mechanisms that work for you will be really useful; it’s a case of trial and error and will take time but once you find things that help you and your child, you should be able to manage difficulties such as sleep, time keeping and organising. Some great tips we’ve had are;
- Once your child is old enough, introduce a notebook/diary for important things.
- Set alarms to keep on task!
- Stick to a routine.
- Keep your child as active as possible all day, and settle them down an hour before bed.
- Be patient and calm when your child is struggling; they need you to be the calm in their storm!
We’d love to read about your experiences with ADHD in the comments – do you have any advice?
Love from Katie & Team BBY. Xx