Understanding and supporting children with ADHD

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By Mary Dubois

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder (NDD) that affects many children around the world. It is estimated that around 5% of school-age children are affected by this disorder, which is characterized by difficulty concentrating, impulsivity and sometimes hyperactivity. In this article, we offer you a better understanding of ADHD in children, its causes, its consequences and the ways to support it on a daily basis.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself as attention deficit, hyperactivity and impulsivity. These symptoms can vary in intensity from one child to another and evolve with age. There are three types of ADHD:

  1. Inattentive ADHD : the child has difficulty concentrating on a task, listening to it and completing it successfully. He is easily distracted and often forgets instructions or appointments.
  2. Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD : the child is frequently agitated, moves a lot and has difficulty staying still. He tends to act without thinking about the consequences of his actions and to interrupt others.
  3. Combined ADHD : the child presents both attention difficulties and symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.
child and ADHD

The causes of ADHD

The exact causes of ADHD are not yet fully understood, but several factors seem to be involved:

  • Genetic factors : ADHD tends to run within families. Studies have shown that certain genes could be involved in its development. Thus, children who have a parent with ADHD are three to seven times more likely to develop this disorder.
  • Environmental factors : Exposure to toxic substances (tobacco, alcohol, drugs) during pregnancy, low birth weight or complications during childbirth could increase the risk of developing ADHD. In addition, certain stress factors or educational deficiencies can also play a role in the appearance of the disorder.
  • Neurological factors : abnormalities in the functioning and structure of certain regions of the brain could be the cause of ADHD. Neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and noradrenaline, which play a role in the regulation of attention and emotions, would also be involved.
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The consequences of ADHD on a child's life

ADHD can have a significant impact on a child's life, academically, socially and emotionally.

  • Academic difficulties : Children with ADHD often have difficulty keeping up in class, concentrating on their homework and organizing their work. They may encounter learning difficulties, particularly in reading and writing, and have academic results below their abilities.
  • Difficult social relationships : Impulsivity and hyperactivity can make relationships with other children complicated. Children with ADHD may have difficulty making friends, following rules, and handling conflict.
  • Fragile self-esteem : Children with ADHD may suffer from a lack of self-confidence, particularly due to difficulties encountered at school and in social relationships. They may also have emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression.

Diagnosis of ADHD in children

The diagnosis of ADHD is based on a thorough evaluation of the child, carried out by a health professional (pediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.). This assessment takes into account the symptoms presented by the child, their intensity, their duration and their impact on their daily life. Questionnaires and tests can be used to refine the diagnosis and rule out other disorders that may present similar symptoms (learning disorders, anxiety disorders, etc.).

child and ADHD

Supporting a child with ADHD

To best support a child with ADHD, it is essential to implement strategies adapted to their needs and to help them develop skills to overcome their difficulties.

  1. Arrange the environment : create a calm and organized workspace, limit distractions and establish clear routines. It is also important to provide break times and relaxation activities to allow the child to recharge their batteries.
  2. Adapt communication : give clear and precise instructions, use visual supports and check the child's understanding. It is also essential to encourage the child to express his emotions and communicate about his difficulties.
  3. Encourage autonomy : teach the child to organize themselves, plan their tasks and manage their time. Tools like calendars, to-do lists and timers can be useful to help them develop their independence.
  4. Promote successes : reinforce the child's positive behavior and progress by praising and rewarding him. It is essential to focus on your strengths and successes, rather than your failures and difficulties.
  5. Promote physical and relaxation activities : sports and relaxation activities can help children better manage their energy and stress. They also help to improve self-esteem and social relationships.
  6. Support the family : supporting a child with ADHD can be trying for parents but also for brothers and sisters. It can be crucial to provide time for discussion and support between different members of the family and not to hesitate to seek help from professionals (psychologists, associations, etc.).
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Treatments for ADHD in children

There is no single treatment for ADHD, but several therapeutic approaches can be combined to help the child overcome his difficulties.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) : this approach aims to help the child develop strategies to improve their attention, time management and social relationships. It can be carried out in individual or group sessions.
  • Play therapy : this approach allows the child to express his emotions and work on his difficulties through play. It can be particularly suitable for young children.
  • Academic support : personalized support at school, such as a reference teacher or a school assistant, can help the child overcome their academic difficulties and integrate into the class.
  • Medication : In some cases, medications may be prescribed to reduce ADHD symptoms. Psychostimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritaline®), are the most commonly used. They act by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of attention and emotions.
child and ADHD - mother with child

The different types of ADHD and their main characteristics

Type of ADHDMain characteristics
Inattentive ADHD– Difficulty concentrating
– Frequent distraction
– Forgetting instructions
Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD– Motor agitation
– Impatience
– Difficulty waiting for one’s turn
Combined ADHD– Symptoms of inattention
– Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity

In summary, ADHD is a complex disorder that requires appropriate treatment and personalized support. By implementing educational strategies and promoting the child's well-being, it is possible to help them overcome their difficulties and flourish. Support from family and health professionals is essential to enable the child to develop their skills and integrate harmoniously into their school and social environment.

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