You’ve just spent another day chasing your toddler around the house. Toys that were played with for a few minutes are strewn everywhere. You’re extremely tired and start to question: Is my child’s energy level normal, or are these the behaviors of a hyperactive child?
Hyperactivity can be a sign of a condition called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention and may also be more impulsive, fidgety, and restless than other children their own age.
Gerald Tarnoff, MD, Unit Chief of the Children’s Intensive Treatment Unit at Butler Hospital, said, “All children can show some of these traits, which can be developmentally appropriate. ADHD symptoms typically start at a young age, however, and persist in comparison to other children of the same age or same developmental stage.”
Researchers have discovered that there are some differences in the brain’s chemistry of children with ADHD. However, the actual cause of the condition remains unknown. Factors that contribute to a higher risk for developing ADHD include:
- gender—boys are more often diagnosed than girls
- significantly low birth weight or premature birth
- smoking or alcohol use during pregnancy
- excessively high blood lead levels
- postnatal injury to certain areas of the brain
- family history of ADHD
Even if your toddler has several of these risk factors, it does not mean he or she has ADHD. This is a naturally curious and high-energy phase of life. The majority of doctors agree it’s difficult to diagnose ADHD at this age, and children are most often diagnosed between ages 8 and 10.
There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, but you can talk to your child’s pediatrician about more concrete warning signs. The doctor will look for a pattern of distracted, impulsive behavior and check to see if this behavior lasts at least six months and occurs in multiple settings. If your child does have ADHD, it is a very treatable condition that can be managed with medication and behavioral therapy techniques.
If you have other questions or concerns about your child’s behaviors, starting on September 14, you can submit questions anonymously via Butler’s website. The hospital’s child and adolescent staff will share their expertise, and answers will be posted on the site, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Webcasts on many different mental health issues that affect children and teenagers today will also be available on these social media platforms and on YouTube.