What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood neuropsychological disorders. It is a developmental disorder that affects more boys than girls. Children with ADHD tend to show a mixture of hyperactivity and inattention and impulsiveness as compared to other children. Symptoms of ADHD can start as early as seven years of age. In Singapore, according to ratings by their parents, about 4.9 % of kids have disruptive behaviours.
Causes of ADHD
ADHD is caused by biological factors and possible environmental and genetic factors as well. No single cause has been identified although heredity appears to be a contributing factor. Recent imaging studies of the brains of children affected by ADHD suggest that they are different from those of other children. Chemical changes in the brain have also been found.
Diagnosing and treating ADHD is a partnership between doctors, parents, teachers and the child. Although there is no “cure” for ADHD per se, it can be successfully managed. Upon noticing these symptoms in your child, it is good to check with a doctor (e.g. psychiatrists, paediatricians). Your doctor will work with you to evaluate the child for ADHD. Some of the evaluation may include:
Treatment for ADHD
Early identification of ADHD in children and young adults is crucial as it is a long-term and chronic condition. If left untreated, children with ADHD are at higher risk of developing drug and alcohol abuse, failure in school, problems keeping a job and also getting into trouble with the law when the child gets older.
ADHD can be treated with a combination of medication, behaviour therapy and family therapy. Medications such as stimulants, non-stimulants and antidepressants are used alongside other forms of therapy to help the child cope with his/her behaviour and impulses. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health revealed that children put on medications had a better outcome than those who did not. It is important that parents and caregivers learn and understand about ADHD so that they can be a better support in helping the child deal with the disorder.
Behavioural therapy and psychotherapy for kids with ADHD are powerful tools when used in conjunction with medication. It attempts to change behaviour patterns by intentional strategies. Mental health workers such as psychiatrists, psychologists and specialist teachers work with the child to help them develop coping mechanisms and strategies.
Some examples of behavioural techniques to help a child with ADHD may involve:
ADHD in the classroom
Children and young people with ADHD in school display symptoms like inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness in the classroom setting and may find it difficult to sit still and concentrate on one thing at a time. Children with ADHD are also at higher risk of suffering from learning disability, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and other mood disorders.
Tips for working with kids with ADHD in the classroom:
Children with ADHD need guidance and understanding from their parents, teachers and support groups to reach their full potential and to succeed both academically and socially.
ADHD in adults
To be diagnosed, an adult must have had ADHD symptoms that began in childhood and continued throughout adulthood. The mental health professional will look into the person’s history of childhood behaviour and school experiences. Family and close friends may also be interviewed, following which there maybe a physical exam and various psychological testings.
Although hyperactivity and impulsiveness usually fade by the time children with ADHD reach adulthood, symptoms of inattention may persist. This disrupts the adult’s functioning at school and at work. Higher education requires a more focused and critical mind, and being unable to concentrate may prove to be detrimental for an adult with ADHD. At the workplace, time management is just as important.
Treatments for adults are similar to treatment for children (medications and behavioural modifications).
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Department of Psychological Medicine provides a comprehensive treatment and management for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. We have a dedicated multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists and psychologists that can provide assessment and treatment for your psychological and emotional distress.
It is never too late to seek help. If you would like to obtain an assessment, please obtain a referral from your treating doctor or general practitioner/family doctor.