Unlocking ADHD writer Mrunmayee Garole examines how ADHD presents in children and what could happen if ADHD remains untreated.
What is ADHD?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a behavioural condition that makes focusing on daily tasks and routines challenging. People with ADHD typically have trouble getting organised, staying focused, making realistic plans, and thinking before acting.” Learn more here.
Does your child have ADHD?
If your child shows symptoms of ADHD but has not yet been diagnosed or treated, what will happen?
According to Dr Russell Barkley, a renowned clinical psychologist and authority on ADHD, the condition affects children in 6 areas:
- Waiting: Finishing the first activity before starting on the second activity requires patience and waiting. When a child’s thoughts outpaces his/her actions, it becomes very difficult for him/her to maintain balance.
- Visual Imagery: Every child likes to live in their own imagination, but also knows the difference between the imagination and reality. An ADHD child happens to experience a repetitive cast of the same situation in his/her mind.
- Controlling the voice in the head: We always have a healthy talk with ourselves. Before making any decision, we listen to the one voice in our heads and act accordingly. As attention cannot be considered as a strength for ADHD children, they cannot focus upon one singular voice.
- Managing emotions: Happiness, aggression, and sadness are some of the emotions that children have learned to express appropriately. However, in the case of ADHD children, they tend to internalise their emotions. Thus processing or expressing emotions is challenging.
- Self-motivation: Every action requires a certain amount of motivation. After performing an action, a person needs to fill their motivation tank again for the next action. When urgent tasks have to be undertaken “here and now”, ADHD children do not get to fill their tanks and can appear unmotivated.
- Mind’s playground (problem solving, planning): In facing any kind of problem, the brain comes up with many possibilities to either ease it, avoid it or find an alternative solution. This ability to solve problems is significantly affected by ADHD.
The 6 areas above are fundamental for any child to function properly. When a child is undiagnosed and/or the ADHD symptoms are not managed, it often affects their self-esteem and social functioning. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, V. Harpin concluded, “Untreated ADHD was associated with poorer long-term self-esteem and social function outcomes compared with non-ADHD controls. Treatment for ADHD was associated with improvement in outcomes; however, further long-term outcome studies are needed”.
What if I suspect my child has ADHD?
If you see your child displaying symptoms such as inattention and hyperactivity, speak with a professional to get a proper diagnosis. The sooner you act, the sooner you will learn to manage it. Effective treatment for your child will include therapies, parent education and training. Dealing with mental health disorders is not just psychological work but also physical. To start, you can encourage your child to exercise, have a healthy diet and restructure the home for minimum distractions.
ADHD has diverse effects on the physical, emotional, and social development of the child. ADHD does not have any overnight “cure” nor can it be fully treated either. However, we can consider treatment as a way to learn to manage it. With appropriate and continuous effort, ADHD can be managed to support a child in living his/her life to the fullest potential!