is it diagnosed
treatments are available?
support is there for me?
are my legal rights?
work by ADHD children
ADHD.org.nz child of the week
Naturally the first thing you want to know is:
"What is ADHD???"
Well, here at ADHD.org.nz, we offer you 2 definitions:
The short definition:
"Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is an early onset,
biological disorder, classically characterised by a triad of symptoms:
and impulsivity. These 3 symptoms are persistent
and at developmentally inappropriate levels."
The long definition:
NOTE: Much of what is written about ADHD is the subject of debate. But the extended
definition that we present here is generally agreed upon by the wider medical
and scientific community.
According to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edition)
(the most widely used diagnostic criteria for ADHD), the ADHD condition can be
broken down into 3 sub-categories:
- attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: combined type
- attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: predominantly inattentive
- attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: predominantly hyperactive or impulsive
Generally an ADHD child will be diagnosed with
one of the three depending on their symptoms.
Nobody knows the exact number of children with ADHD in New Zealand. In the USA,
however, approximately 2-5% of the school age population has been
diagnosed with one of the 3 types of ADHD. Strangely, ADHD is 3 to 4 times
more likely to occur in males than females.
Onset & duration:
The onset of symptoms is early in childhood, before 7 years of age (generally
noticable at 4-5 years). And for approx. 75% of ADHD sufferers, these
symptoms continue into adulthood, although levels
of hyperactivity may decrease with age.
For the most part, the cause of ADHD (all three sub-types) remains a mystery. The experts agree that
the condition is primarily biological in nature. Researchers have suggested
that genetics may be responsible for some cases of ADHD, but
nongenetic factors (such as exposure to toxins, episodes of oxygen
deprivation or smoking during pregnancy) have also been indentified as possible
A lot of research has also been conducted on the
neurobiology of ADHD. For a more detailed discussion on the possible
causes of ADHD, Click here.
Comorbidity refers to the child having additional problems as well as ADHD.
As many as two-thirds of clinically referred children with ADHD have additional
problems. 30-50% will have conduct disorder (CD), and 20-25% will have
anxiety problems. Generally 20-30% of ADHD children also have learning
problems and as many as 30% have delayed motor development.
What to do if you suspect a child has ADHD:
The first step in helping a child who displays the three hallmark symptoms
(hyperactivity, inattention and
impulsivity), is to seek a diagnosis.
This involves organising an appointment with a paediatric specialist or child psychologist.
If you are not sure of where to find a specialist in your town/city, have a
look at our map of New Zealand. It will tell you which
specialists are available in your region and where to find support groups
and resources after diagnosis.
While ADHD is not curable (at the moment), the good news is that ADHD
is managable. Both behavioural and
pharmacological regimes are available.
Click here to read more on treatments of ADHD.
The most important thing for both child and parent to
remember after being diagnosed with ADHD is that:
"You are not alone!"
ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed childhood mental condition. Most primary
schools will have several children already diagnosed with the condition.
Contrary to earlier belief, ADHD is also now recognised as a condition affecting many adults.
Many well known sports people have been diagnosed with the adult form of ADHD
including the Rugby League's famous bad boy Willie Mason.
There are plenty of support groups available throughout
New Zealand. Parents should educate themselve
about ADHD (this website is a good start!) and know their
legal rights when dealing with schools and health care groups. Also
maintain a close relationship with the child's teacher
and school. For more on what to do after a child is diagnosed with ADHD,
How long has ADHD existed?
ADHD has been known by many names over the last century:
- Hyperactive Impulse Disorder.
- Hyperactive Child Syndrome.
- Developmental Hyperactivity.
- Hyper-kinetic Syndrome.
- Minimal Brain Dysfunction.
- Minimal Brain Damage Syndrome.
- Moral Control Deficit.
- Organic Drivenness (1930!).
There is, however, considerable evidence to suggest that ADHD is not a recent phenomenon.
2500 years ago, the great physician-scientist, Hippocrates described a condition
that seems to be compatible with what we now know as ADHD.
He described patients who had....
"quickened responses to sensory experience, but also less tenaciousness because the soul
moves on quickly to the next impression". Hippocrates attributed this condition to
an "overbalance of fire over water". His remedy for this "overbalance" was "barley rather than
wheat bread, fish rather than meat, water drinks, and many natural and diverse physical activities".
From Hippocrates: Aphorisms. In The Genuine Works of Hippocrates
(Translated from greek by Fancis Adams).
presented is of a general nature and is not a substitute for professional
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