The month of October is also known as ADHD awareness month, which seeks to educate people on this neurodevelopmental condition, the associated challenges it can bring and to celebrate neurodiversity.
ADHD stands for ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.’ As ADHD affect’s a person’s executive functioning (the part of our brain that controls our impulses, ability to concentrate and manage tasks simultaneously), this condition can impact on an individual’s ability to organise themselves, prioritise tasks and sustain concentration.
As the NHS states, symptoms can fall into either of the following two categories:
Inattentiveness (difficulty with focus and concentration)
- Being forgetful or frequently losing belongings
- Unable to stick to tasks that demand resilience or are time-consuming
- Difficulty organising oneself
- Difficulty settling to a task and flitting between activities
- Having a short attention-span and being easily distracted
- Often making errors and ‘careless’ mistakes
Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness (doing or saying things without weighing up the consequences first)
- Frequently appearing ‘on the go’
- Fidgeting and restlessness
- Interrupting conversations
- Having little sense of danger or consequences
- Difficulties waiting their turn
- Talking excessively
- Finding emotional regulation difficult
Symptoms can make it difficult for your child to:
- Sleep well
- Form and maintain healthy friendships and relationships
- Organise themselves and plan ahead
- Cope with the learning demands of school
- Complete tasks
The presence of the above symptoms does not mean a child definitely has ADHD and indeed some of the above symptoms can be typical for a child’s particular stage of social and emotional development. If you are concerned your child or teenager may have ADHD, it is always advisable to seek the guidance of your GP who will be able to refer your child to a specialist for assessment. Most cases of ADHD are typically diagnosed by the time a child reaches twelve years of age.
It was once thought that boys were more likely to develop ADHD than girls, but we now know this is not true, although girls may present with symptoms differently to boys, which may include daydreaming, feeling overwhelmed during social situations and finding it difficult to relax.
It is also common for ADHD to exist alongside other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or sleep disorders.
Whilst living with ADHD can have its challenges, there are also many strengths to celebrate! Encouragingly, more and more celebrities are opening up about living with ADHD, from Will Smith, Will.i.am, Jamie Oliver and Emma Watson, helping to break the stigma.
There are so many positives to celebrate and it is worth noting some of the most successful people to have ever lived are now understood to have had ADHD – including Albert Einstein! Whilst it is so important to help your child to tackle their challenges, it is also so encouraging for them to learn about these positive role models too.
Supporting your child with ADHD
Here are some top tips that may help:
- Stick to a routine. It is not unusual for children with ADHD to struggle with sleep. Try to encourage your child to sleep and wake at the same time everyday and limit screen time at least an hour before bed, which can be overstimulating and inhibit the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone).
- Keep a diary. Consider your child’s diet and keep a note of foods and drinks which may cause a change in your child’s behaviour. For example, excessively sugary drinks or sweets may lead to hyperactivity.
- Get active! Allowing plenty of opportunity for your child to get active in the day is so important. Not only does it allow your child to channel their energy in a positive way and help with sleep but when we are engaged in physical exercise, our brain produces a hormone called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which is vital for the maintenance of the nervous system, aids in learning and neuroplasticity (the brains ability to learn new habits) and increases focus.
- Support your child’s emotional regulation. Children with ADHD can find social situation overwhelming and can find it challenging to regulate their emotions, resulting in becoming over-stimulated, dysregulated or over-tired. Aim to plan social situations at times of the day when your child will not be hungry or tired and try to limit social interactions to only what you know your child can positively manage.
- Give short and specific instructions. Children with ADHD can find it difficult to remember multi-step instructions so be specific about what you would like your child to do. For example, rather than ask “Can you go upstairs, put your pyjamas on, brush your teeth and tidy your toys away,” try saying “(name) can you go upstairs and put on your red pyjamas.” Limiting instructions to one at a time can help your child to remember what they need to do. Instead of saying “tidy your toys away,” you might say “Please put your toys in the box and your books back on the shelf.”
- Ask them what’s great about having ADHD! Yes, with ADHD comes many challenges but what makes them unique and special not in spite of but because of their ADHD? Perhaps they are super fun to be around, have the most creative ideas and are one of the bravest people you know! Spend time chatting about and celebrating these differences.
Where to go for further help and support
The Youth Fairies work with children and teenagers with neurodiverse conditions, such as ADHD. Whilst this is a complex condition that needs the support of your GP and specialist doctors to diagnose, monitor and treat, youth fairies can support your child to manage any underlying stress and anxiety that often exists alongside it, enabling children to better manage their symptoms and increase feelings of happiness, relaxation and positivity.
To find your nearest youth fairy, visit: https://www.theyouthfairy.com/fairies/
For further information, support and guidance, visit: