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Attention Deficit Disorders

by Pam Esser, M.Ed and Nancy Eisenberg, MSW, LCSW, LMFT

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is finally getting the publicity it deserves, offering hope and understanding to the 2.5 million children and millions of adults suffering from this complicated neurological disorder. To the uniformed, however, ADHD continues to be a "fad", an excuse for socially unacceptable behavior, or simply the figment of some beleaguered parent's imagination. Dubbed by various names over the decades, this has contributed to the confusion though there has been considerable research in the last twenty-five years.

Research has proven that ADHD is not caused by social conditions, poor parenting or ineffective discipline and is not related to intelligence. Most frequently inherited from one generation to another, ADHD symptoms may include attention difficulties, impulsivity, poor social skills, memory and motivation deficits, and hyperactivity. ADHD is a pervasive disorder, usually affecting all aspects of an individual's life. Struggling and experience school/work success, laboring to develop harmonious relationships, and coping with the internal battles of out-of-control emotions are just some of the daily challenges of the ADHD child or adult.

Though behaviors frequently seen in ADHD children may be noted in many children of a specific age group, the difficulties of the ADHD child fall outside the range of normal expectations. Frequently considered immature, their behaviors are intense, extreme and persistent over a period of time. Each ADHD individual is unique and will manifest ADHD difficulties within the context of personality and age.

More and more is being learned about the disorder and as a result, those living with ADD/ADHD can now turn to a variety of treatment options. The first step is to acquire a proper diagnosis, and since no single test is available to diagnose ADD/ADHD, a child or adult must be evaluated psychologically, physically, and socially. Additionally, students should be evaluated academically. Only then can an appropriate treatment plan be formulated.

An assessment from a qualified professional will take into account observations by teachers and parents. Medical information is also necessary to eliminate any physical or emotional conditions, which might be responsible for the child's condition.

Aspects of treatment can include medication, behavior modification, social skill training, support group sessions, learning self-management skills and, if needed, psychotherapy. Through these encounters, ADD/ADHD adults, children and their families gain emotional support to cope with the stresses related to the disorder and learn compensatory skills that hopefully will enable them to relate more positively to others. With proper treatment those living with ADD/ADHD also gain some insight into their own emotions as well as the feelings of others, thereby taking a significant step to becoming a more fulfilled and productive member of our society.

Though a diagnosis can be initially overwhelming, this is a very treatable disorder. With understanding and knowledgeable interventions, ADHD doesn't have to be an overwhelming stumbling block but a challenge to be confronted and mastered. Parents, educators, and health-care professionals working as a team with the ADHD child is necessary to maximize opportunities for progress.

Parents need to become ADHD experts and to learn parenting strategies effective with ADHD children. Federal laws protect such children, and public schools are legally bound to meet their educational needs. Counseling and the use of medication are other areas that can effectively impact the ADHD child's learning, coping and compensating skills.

Written for ADDA-SR by: Pam Esser, M.Ed and Nancy Eisenberg, MSW, LCSW, LMFT 

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