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How to identify a child with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

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Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition often ascribed casually to persons who seem unusually scattered. For child psychologist and mental health counsellor, Eunice Chinedu-Nwigwe, ADHD is a condition marked by an on-going pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with a child’s functioning or development.

While their symptom varies from person to person, there are different types of ADHD so it’s important to keep that in mind when considering whether you or a loved one might have ADHD.

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ADHD symptoms can change with age, depending on the situation or environment a person is in, the gender, range in severity from mild to severe and increase in severity during times of stress.

The mental health counselor stressed that a key factor of ADHD is inattention where children and adults who are inattentive have difficulty staying focused and attending to tasks that they perceive as mundane. Hence they may procrastinate doing work that requires a great deal of mental energy.

Symptoms of inattention include making seemingly careless mistakes when performing schoolwork or projects in the workplace; difficulty paying close attention to the details; has problem sustaining attention on tasks, even fun ones and does not seem to be listening when someone is speaking to them, whether a teacher, friend or parent.

“Might look out of the window or glance at a clock; has difficulty following instructions; completing a task from start to finish is challenging; motivation may be lost; getting-side tracked can happen. Has trouble organising tasks; working out a logical step-by-step process feels overwhelming, resists, avoids, and procrastinates starting tasks that require mental energy, loses belongings frequently or replacing glasses, cell phones, and umbrellas regularly.”

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Chinedu-Nwigwe noted that hyperactivity/Impulsivity, which is another symptom of ADHD involves children and adults who are hyperactive presents physical and/or verbal overactivity. They may appear to be in constant motion and perpetually on the go as if driven by a motor.

Sitting still is extremely difficult for a child with impulsivity as they continually squirm and move feet and hands. Remaining in a seated position is challenging and will constantly stand up and move, even when being seated is the socially accepted thing to do.

They run or climb at inappropriate times; adolescents and adults might be physically still but will experience an internal restlessness that feels painful at times. They rarely take part in leisure or play activities quietly, they talk constantly, which can cause problems at school, work, and social settings/interactions. They can appear selfish because they have a hard time taking turns and will interrupt other people who are speaking or doing an activity.

On how symptoms of ADHD affect children in school, the mum of three said that they miss details and make careless mistakes in schoolwork, they have a problem sustaining attention during a lesson or any given task in school, seem not to listen when spoken to directly and fail to finish schoolwork or follow instruction. They also avoid tasks that require mental effort and lose things necessary for tasks or activities in school such as paperwork, books and pencils.

While the cause of ADHD can be genetic, cigarette smoking, alcohol use or drug use during pregnancy can cause ADHD. Brain injuries too can be responsible. “You do not assume that a child has ADHD without diagnosis. If you observe some of these symptoms in a child, it is advisable to seek the help of a professional,” she added.

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