Nowadays, it is common to attend cases related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in consultation, and parents are usually anxious because years ago they did not hear about this term as it happens nowadays; that is why, sometimes, they do not know how to manage this kind of cases well.
When parents or teachers consult me: how do I get him to be quiet, because he spends so much time making noises and doesn’t let other children concentrate? I usually answer that asking them not to move or make noise is like asking you not to blink. They are children who are willing to obey, but they just can’t.
Therefore, the first thing we need to do is to understand what this disorder is all about, – which affects children and adults. Let’s see what attention deficit is all about .
Attention and Attention Deficit
Let’s start with the basics. what is attention? It is a process of selective concentration on one or more discrete units of information about elements of the environment or thoughts in which other units of information are ignored.
In the case of attention deficit, what happens is that the subject fixes his attention on that information that is attractive, useful or significant to him, according to criteria that do not always obey what is socially expected of each situation and context. Therefore, this is not an attention deficit, but rather a selective attention. That is, these people involuntarily focus on details that in the eyes of others should be ignored.
Because of this, parents refer to them as “deaf”. In fact, the term “deafness” is used because they only hear what is of interest or benefit to them and can sometimes be distracted by their own thoughts. We all have dreams and yearn for things, but we learn to control our dreams in such a way that they do not affect our performance; people with attention deficit, however, do not achieve this control and often fantasize or daydream at times when very concrete actions are expected of them.
Different priorities and selective attention
In addition to this, there are behaviors that affect the organization and sense of priority causing people with attention deficit to easily forget their obligations, as well as lose toys, books, school supplies or clothes. It is also frequent to have difficulty in managing time, which leads them to be unpunctual or unfulfilled.
Likewise, following orders is often complicated if an instruction contains several actions or steps, as they fail to retain it unless it is stated very clearly, or they make mistakes due to lack of attention to detail.
Main symptoms of attention deficit
Now let’s see how attention deficit is expressed.
Impulsivity in attention deficit
In addition, many of these people have problems with impulsivity . This adds to the symptoms of inattention, but is actually partly a consequence of inattention.
I usually explain to parents that, as we grow up, we learn to use regulatory brakes without realising it, that is to say, we learn when to give our opinion and when to keep quiet , when to intervene in some matter and when to keep our distance; even though we feel the need to get involved, we must stop in order to promote healthy relationships or to fulfil objectives or assigned tasks.
However, in the case of children with this disorder, they feel the urge but cannot stop it, they have no brakes to regulate their desires (impulsivity). Therefore, usual behaviors can be: interrupting people and not stopping talking, touching and playing with everything they see, saying inappropriate comments, using lies to get out of the way, answering before the end of the question or showing difficulty in keeping the turn in group activities.
Likewise, the attention deficit affects these people, causing them to seek to quickly change their activities to other more attractive interests that do not require a continuous effort, but most probably not a priority, causing them to fail to finish their tasks and household chores .
In addition to this, people with attention deficit need to release the excess energy they have (hyperactivity) , therefore they tend to keep in constant movement or squirm in one place, or constantly look for new activities that are attractive to them. Cases of insomnia are also frequent. They prefer to stand or “walk”, so they prefer “active” play activities, quiet games are not usually to their liking.
They also often tend to entertain themselves with their own body (hands, arms, hair, mouth, etc.), which involves making sounds or noises that disturb other people.
Finally, people with attention deficits have a low tolerance for frustration. As a result, they are often very impatient, which leads to temper tantrums and inappropriate expressions of anger. This often makes them seem explosive, anxious, or frustrated.
How is ADHD diagnosed?
Therefore, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that leads to a certain immaturity in the systems that regulate the level of attention, impulsivity and movement. An important fact is that it belongs to disorders that begin in infancy, childhood or adolescence, that is, the symptoms must be present before the age of 12 to be classified in this category.
A very common question asked by parents is: how exactly is ADHD diagnosed?
In these cases, the best thing to do is to consult a professional (child psychiatrist, pediatrician, neurologist), who carries out an interview with the parents and then assesses the child. Only specialists of this type can make a diagnosis, and they must do so after a personalised review. Questions that are usually asked in the interview would be:
- What’s his mood like most of the time?
- Do you have problems keeping order and/or getting organized?
- Are you usually on time?
- Are there people in the family with similar characteristics?
- Is their behavior the same at school, at home, and in other settings?
- Have you had problems since you were a child?
Also the history of the pregnancy and delivery may be investigated further or medical tests may be requested to rule out another cause .
Assisting in the diagnosis
In short, although it is true that sometimes it takes time to establish the diagnosis, these are not complicated tests, the most advisable thing is always to give the professional the most honest and exact information possible.
Many times, parents do not accept that their children have some difficulty, and believe that by withholding information they avoid the diagnosis. This only complicates intervention on attention deficit problems.