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2019 Dec

About ADHD

Learn more about this condition and how to treat it.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition which affects 9.4 percent of children: over 6 million children. Research suggests that a child with ADHD has differences in the brain activity that affect attention and self-control. ADHD can run in families.

There are three types of ADHD: 1) predominantly inattentive (daydreamers), 2) predominantly hyperactive (high energy, can’t sit still) and 3) combined (impulsive, inattentive, and hyperactive). Inattentive symptoms include making careless mistakes, difficulty paying attention, not listening, failing to finish work, losing things, difficulty organizing tasks, being easily distracted, and forgetfulness in daily activities.

Hyperactive symptoms include fidgeting or squirming, can’t remain seated (when being seated is expected), running inappropriately, always on the go, talks excessively, busy, driven, bossy, and has difficulty with quiet activities. Impulsive symptoms include blurting out answers before the question is completed, difficulty waiting their turn, interrupting, arguing and acting without considering the consequences.

If you are concerned that your child may have ADHD, make an appointment with your pediatric healthcare provider. The standardized test, Vanderbilt Assessment Tools, developed by the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) in association with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), has both parent-rated and teacher-rated behavior scales.

School records and report cards are also reviewed. There is an interview as well as a physical exam. To have a diagnosis of ADHD, your child must have six or more symptoms and the symptoms must have lasted for more than six months in at least two settings (like home and school). In addition, some of the symptoms must have been present before age seven.

Co-morbid conditions can co-exist with ADHD. These include anxiety, depression, conduct disorders, and oppositional defiant disorder. Screening for these is completed, and if noted, referral for psychological management is provided.

ADHD is a 24/7 disorder that often results in poor grades, poor relationships, and low self-esteem. Teens with ADHD have a higher potential for car accidents, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse. Kids with ADHD become adults with ADHD which can lead to future job-related and family issues.

ADHD can be treated. Symptoms improve with treatment. Treatment involves behavioral therapy with parent training, school support, and medication therapy. These work best when used together. Behavioral therapy involves encouraging positive behavior by setting goals and creating rewards and consequences. It teaches schedules/routines. Goals should be small and realistic. Rules must be clear and should be posted. Parents teach and model the rules. Positive behavior is rewarded.

School accommodation may be provided with additional educational testing, a 504 plan, or an IEP (Individual Education Plan). Stimulant medication therapy is statistically proven to be effective. Most patients respond well to stimulants, which focus attention and improve the accuracy of academic work, as well as decrease impulsive behavior. Side effects are generally mild. Medication doesn’t “cure” ADHD but allows adequate focus for the child to learn coping strategies.

ADHD symptoms can improve as children, teens, and adults with ADHD learn strategies to increase their organizational skills. Children with ADHD thrive on routine and structure. Catch them being good and reward them. Be fair, friendly, firm, and focused with your child. ADHD can and should be treated.

For more information:

Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP

Dr. Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner as well as core faculty member at Walden University. Her book, Raising Today’s Baby: Second Edition, is available on


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