Did you know that as many as 1 in 10 children are affected by ADHD? If you have recently learned that your child has this condition or you suspect they may, you are far from alone. Millions of parents across the globe are experiencing the same.
Whilst you may initially experience shock and worry at the news, you can take comfort in the knowledge that there is expert help and information available, wherever you are.
As experts in the treatment of ADHD in Dubai, we have compiled this guide to ADHD, its symptoms, how it affects everyday life, and the most popular treatments for the condition.
We’ll explore both medicated and non-medicated treatment options so that you are armed with the knowledge you need to make decisions that are right for your child.
As you may know, ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a condition that affects the brain. This means it can affect behavior, decision making, learning, organization, and many other cognitive functions.
ADHD occurs when there are differences in the way the brain works. No single cause of ADHD has been identified. Doctors consider that children with a history of the following are more likely to have ADHD, although research is ongoing:
- A family history of ADHD
- Brain injury and/or traumatic birth
- Premature birth or low birth weight
- Abuse of various substances during pregnancy, including alcohol
You may see that none of these apply to your child. This does not rule out ADHD, but it does put them slightly less at risk.
It is important for parents to understand that ADHD affects individual children differently. There is a range of ADHD symptoms and different children often have different combinations of these. People with ADHD are often impulsive and restless, but these two behaviors do not apply to all people with ADHD. Here is a list of possible symptoms in children:
- Difficulties focusing on a task and having a short attention span
- Switching focus often
- Appearing to be careless
- Often very restless
- Impulsive behavior
- Difficulties organizing time or belongings
- Trouble listening to instructions or explanations
Children experiencing one or more of these difficulties may not have ADHD. Consider that a typical toddler would exhibit many of the symptoms above. It takes time for young children to mature. For this reason, it is difficult to diagnose ADHD in young children between the ages of 3 and 6, even if they demonstrate many of the symptoms. ADHD is not usually diagnosed until at least 7 years of age.
It is really important that you speak to a professional about any concerns you have and that you seek a professional, medical diagnosis.
Diagnosing ADHD requires specialist knowledge and following careful, formal assessment protocols. While your family doctor may suspect ADHD, they cannot usually diagnose it themselves. Instead, they will refer your child for a formal assessment at an ADHD clinic.
Specialists at ADHD clinics include psychiatrists and psychologists who will have in-depth experience in identifying ADHD. Collecting information from a child’s parents and teachers is always an important step before making a diagnosis. They will, of course, want to meet your child. They may also complete a non-invasive scan of your child’s brain waves.
It is quite common for children to have a second condition alongside ADHD. Your child’s doctor may call these “comorbidities.” This is when a patient is experiencing more than one condition at the same time.
Children with ADHD are more likely to experience the following:
- Learning difficulties such as dyslexia
- Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Comorbidities can make the life of a child with ADHD even more difficult. It’s important that all the professionals involved in your child’s care are aware of secondary conditions so that they can work together and put an individualized support package in place.
Once your child has a diagnosis, you can move on to consider how they can be supported in their everyday lives. You can also consider whether you wish your child to receive treatment for ADHD.
Life for children with ADHD can be difficult. Here, we look at how the condition may affect their everyday life at home and at school.
At school, children with ADHD can have trouble learning across the curriculum. There are various reasons for this. They may have trouble ignoring even the slightest distractions, meaning that they lose focus on what the teacher is telling them or on their learning task. They may have trouble sitting still long enough to complete assignments, too. They could have trouble organizing their thoughts, affecting how much information they can retain.
They may also struggle to control their behavior in and out of the classroom. Many children with ADHD are impulsive or prone to outbursts and mood swings. This can land them in trouble with teachers and make it harder to form friendships at school.
Children with ADHD can find the rules of conversation difficult. They may interrupt at an inappropriate time or they may talk excessively and not give the other person a chance to contribute. This again can affect their relationships with peers.
If your child has ADHD, it’s really important that they are in a supportive school environment. Teachers should have tools and strategies to help their child overcome their challenges. Thankfully, most educational professionals now know a lot more about ADHD than a decade or two ago. You should be able to find a caring, understanding school placement.
At home, you may also find your child’s behavior difficult at times. As well as having outbursts, they may struggle to organize themselves and their belongings in the mornings. They may find it difficult to relax and unwind in the evenings, making bedtimes challenging. Mealtimes can be stressful, too.
Perhaps your child does not appear to have a sense of danger and acts without thinking. This is very frightening for parents. It is really important that you have help and support in place, too. Being a parent of an ADHD child can be exceptionally stressful.
Recent advances in research mean that there are now many proven options for the successful treatment of ADHD. This is really great news for children with ADHD and their parents. Treatments can make a big difference to the quality of life and improve outcomes for children in school.
Some treatments involve taking regular medication. Others are non-medicated and involve non-invasive therapies. You don’t need to choose between medicated and non-medicated. They can complement each other well.
Taking a medicated route is popular. There are different drugs available worldwide that are proven to make a difference to ADHD symptoms. It is important to note that they are not a cure. Instead, they reduce symptoms while the drugs are being regularly taken.
Many ADHD drugs are stimulants. This means that they increase the brain’s activity levels, focusing on the areas of the brain that control attention and behavior.
ADHD medications may cause side effects. These could include drowsiness, dizziness, and changes to appetite. Your child’s doctor should advise on the potential side effects of medication options they offer.
Many parents choose non-medicated therapies for their children. Some use these therapies in addition to medication.
Therapies may be offered individually or in a group setting. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an example of a talk-based therapy widely used to treat ADHD.
Biofeedback treatments such as neurofeedback therapy can also be used. These are not discussion-based like CBT. Instead, they are a form of brain training. They are non-invasive and well-suited to children. Neurofeedback can offer excellent, long-lasting results for children with ADHD.
Neurofeedback therapy takes place in a comfortable, non-clinical environment. During the session, therapists use EEG equipment to monitor brain waves. As they do so, the child relaxes by watching a favorite TV show or playing a video game. The whole experience is gentle, calming, and enjoyable.
While the child watches the screen, the equipment is measuring brain activity. In response, it provides the brain with continuous feedback. When the child focuses well, the neurofeedback equipment rewards them with a clearer picture and sound for their show or game. This encourages self-regulation. Neurofeedback is like exercise for the brain. Training it in this way over a number of sessions teaches the brain to focus better and for longer.
An in-depth assessment is required to identify the brain’s strengths and weaknesses before treatment sessions begin and to set goals for improvement. With the targeted treatment that follows, patients can reach their goals around 95% of the time.
Parents often report that their children have better focus and concentration levels after a course of treatment. This is backed up in scientific literature. For example, a meta-analysis by various leading experts, which combines the research of many single studies on neurofeedback to further understanding, reaches very positive conclusions.
The authors from various universities and the Brainclinics Foundation agree that neurofeedback therapy has a large effect size on inattention and impulsive behaviors and a medium effect size on hyperactivity. If you would like to know more, the paper is titled “Efficiency of Neurofeedback Training in ADHD: The Effects on Inattention, Impulsivity, and Hyperactivity: a Meta-Analysis,” by Coenan A. et al (2009).
There is a lot for parents to consider when a child is newly diagnosed with ADHD. There are some excellent treatments available, however, which can be used alone or combined for better effect. While these treatments do not promise to cure ADHD completely or forever, they can make a huge difference. Symptoms can be reduced, challenges overcome, and everyday life for your child and the whole family can be greatly improved.
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, an award-winning neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain’s true potential. Earning a doctorate in Neuroscience from the revered Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Gala has spent over a decade trying to unravel the way neurochemical and neurophysiological changes in the brain affect the way we interact with the world. Her goal is to share her knowledge, encourage others to tap into and expand their brain’s capabilities, and dispel any myths surrounding our most complex organ.
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