It has been said that suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) is like being blindfolded and placed in a strange room with nothing to guide you by. Everyone else can see where they’re going, but you’re left to stomp around in the dark. As a result you constantly trip over all the things that have been scattered in your path.
AD/HD turns your thought processes into a whirlwind – you have a general idea of what’s going on but miss most of the content. Sometimes you’re so caught up in a huge array of thoughts and images that you don’t even notice when someone starts talking to you.
Over the years AD/HD has become increasingly common in children (although adults suffer from it as well). In fact it is now one of the most common developmental disorders among young people, affecting between three and five percent of the school-age population.
The three main characteristics of AD/HD are inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Inattentiveness is an inability to focus and/or sustain your attention on a particular task. Hyperactivity is the best-known feature of AD/HD and involves relentless fidgeting, squirming and excessive physical activity such as running and climbing. Impulsivity is the tendency to do something before thinking about what the consequences will or might be.
So what’s the cause? Well, a lot of research still has to be carried out on this frustrating condition, but we do know that AD/HD results from a chemical imbalance in the brain and that it can be inherited (or genetically transmitted).
The good news about AD/HD is that treatment is available. Stimulants such as Ritalin, Dexedrine or Dextrostat and Cylert can be very effective in reducing hyperactivity and improving the ability to focus. But such medications can have unpleasant side effects and should not be given in isolation. Rather, treatment should also include behavioural therapy and/or counselling from a psychiatrist or psychologist. These drugs are not a ‘magic bullet’ and will only treat symptoms, not underlying causes.
If you think your child may be suffering from AD/HD, take him or her to see your local doctor or Aboriginal medical service. If your GP doesn’t feel qualified to diagnose AD/HD, then your child may be referred to a psychologist or paediatrician. Don’t try and make a diagnosis yourself – ask a professional!
Correctly identifying and treating this condition could make the world of difference both to you and your child. Not only will parenting become a whole lot easier, but your child’s academic, social and athletic abilities will improve and they will be happier as a result.