Symptoms: Common Signs of ADHD in Children
If you have kids, you know they can have trouble sitting still, resisting the urge to break the rules, or finishing a chore like making the bed. But does this mean they have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
Not paying attention, running around when asked to stay put, even meltdowns at the grocery store--all kids misbehave from time to time. But ADHD in children is more than just misbehavior. When these behaviors carry on for months, are unusually intense for the child's age, and hamper his or her ability to get along at school or home, there may be a problem.
ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders, affecting 3 to 5 percent of U.S. kids--more often boys than girls. It's a pattern of three key behaviors: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
Children who have ADHD are often given medication as part of their treatment plan. The type of medication most often chosen is a psychostimulant, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Metadate and Concerta). Psychostimulant drugs help balance chemicals in the child's brain that help to control behavior and focus attention.
Other psychostimulants prescribed for ADHD in children include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), a mixture of amphetamine salts (Adderall), and atomoxetine (Strattera).
Psychostimulants act quickly—doing their job over the course of one to four hours—and then are quickly flushed from the body. Newer psychostimulants on the market are designed to be longer acting, continuing to work for up to nine hours, so that they only need to be taken once a day.
Learn how to treat ADHD ›
You hear a lot about the challenges of living with ADHD. What you don't hear discussed as often is the positive side of the condition. Yet the beneficial aspects of ADHD—energy, spontaneity, creativity, flexibility—are just as real as the negative ones.
If you have the hyperactive form of ADHD, you know what it's like to have too much of a good thing. You've got energy to burn, but it isn't easy to channel productively. With treatment, you may be able to dial down hyperactivity to healthy activity.
One way to put all that energy to good use is with exercise. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. That includes activities such as brisk walking, water aerobics, moderate cycling, or doubles tennis. Alternately, you can do 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging, lap swimming, fast cycling, or singles tennis. Workouts sound like ... well, work. But they can feel like play when you've got the energy to make them a pleasure rather than a chore.
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