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Making sense of attention deficit disorder in children
By Dr. Shannon Shi

Look in any parenting book or healthcare website and you'll find a wealth of information about attention deficit disorder. And it's no surprise that so many people are interested in the topic.

Two million children in the United States are diagnosed with the condition each year. This number is even more staggering when you consider this fact: in a classroom of 25 to 30 children, at least one student will have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a very serious condition that is often clouded by denial, misunderstanding, and alarm. It may impair a child's ability to learn, progress in school and even function well in his own home. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to diagnose.

Up until 1994, the condition was commonly referred to as attention deficit disorder. However, the diagnostic guidelines were revised to include hyperactivity along with inattention and impulsivity as the main characteristics of the condition.

A child who has ADHD may exhibit certain behaviors associated with hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. For example, this child may be very talkative and find it difficult to wait his turn to speak. He may interrupt others and blurt out answers to questions. Or, he is unable to sit still and seems to always be on the run.

Forgetfulness, carelessness, disorganization and lack of focus are other signs of ADHD.

In most cases, a child will exhibit symptoms and develop ADHD by age 7. In order for the problem to be considered ADHD, the symptoms must persist for at least 6 months and severely impact the child's ability to function normally in at least two settings of his/her life.

For example, a child may not be reaching the developmental milestones that are typical of his age group in school. She may be acting out at home and not getting along with siblings.

Sudden changes in your child's behavior may be attributed to other medical conditions and psychosocial situations, and not directly related to ADHD. For example, if a child who has never shown signs of failing grades or social problems suddenly begins acting out, the behavior may be associated with another social issue, such as adjusting to a divorce, rather than ADHD.

With proper treatment and guidance from parents, counselors and teachers, a child with ADHD can go on to achieve his full potential.

Parents can help their child by establishing and following a daily routine. Time management and consistent rules are also important as well as giving praise and small rewards for good behavior.

Hospitals such as Linden Oaks Hospital at Edward offer evaluations and treatment for children to address ADHD. Utilizing behavior modification, medication management and individual therapy, the needs of the whole child are identified and addressed in a compassionate setting.

If you feel that something isn't right with your child, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Left untreated, these issues will further impact family relationships, school success and friendships.

Dr. Shannon Shi, a former pediatrician, is now a licensed clinical psychiatrist with extensive experience in child and adolescent health. Dr. Shi is on the medical staff of Linden Oaks Hospital at Edward in Naperville, Illinois.

Linden Oaks Hospital at Edward offers specialized programs including ADHD, bi-polar disorder, depression, self-injury and eating disorders for children and adolescents. For more information, please call (630) 646-8000.

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