According to data from the Child Guidance Clinic (CGC) in Singapore, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common condition in children and adolescents who visit this facility. The prevalence of ADHD is said to be between 1.7% and 16%.
ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder that is usually visible before the child gets to the age of 7 years old. Unfortunately, parents may not know that their child has ADHD. Many assume their children are being fussy or troublesome since some of the ADHD behaviors are visible in most children.
What are the Symptoms Shown by a Child with ADHD?
ADHD is classified into two main categories, inattentiveness, and impulsiveness and hyperactivity. This classification helps therapists and parents to determine where the child’s behavior fits. The behavioral problems seen in most children fall in both categories.
The signs of inattentiveness in a child include:
- regularly forgetting or misplacing personal items
- careless mistakes in school assignments
- losing focus when taking part in time-consuming activities
- short attention span
- experiences difficulty in organizing tasks
The primary signs in the hyperactivity and impulsiveness category are:
- Unease when in a quiet or calm environment
- Inability to concentrate on given tasks
- Unnecessary frequent body movements
- Fidgeting constantly
- Talking excessively, even in situations that demand silence
- Acting without thought of the consequences of their actions
- Inability to wait their turn
How Can Parents Distinguish ADHD from Normal Behavior in Children?
Symptoms of ADHD of ADHD are quite similar to normal childhood behavior in most children. Parents are advised to observe the frequency of the acts and how the child behaves in different situations. If, for example, your child shows signs of inattentiveness at home, yet is the opposite when at school or play areas, chances are he doesn’t have ADHD. However, if the behavior is consistent, irrespective of location or activity, it may be time to consider the possibility that your child has ADHD.
Coping Mechanisms for Parents with Children with ADHD
Raising a child with ADHD can be overwhelming. This is primarily true if you are not aware of your child’s condition, or if you are yet to accept the possibility that your child has ADHD. This reaction is common because of a lack of readily available information on ADHD, and possible solutions for parents to help them cope.
Although you need to find ways to raise children with ADHD comfortably, the first step is to help the child understand that there is nothing wrong with them. Many children fail to grasp their situation and end up being affected or even depressed. Parental support is critical, especially when the child is old enough to notice the challenges he or she faces because of ADHD.
Children are affected differently by ADHD. Parents need to know exactly how their children are affected and the best solutions for them. For example, children who have an attention deficit need to learn how to pay attention and listen, while those who are hyperactive need to slow down. Find out some favorable home practices that can help your child live as healthy a life as possible with ADHD. Simple changes to diet, the environment at home (sounds and colors) and rewarding good behavior will help with the therapy given.
Here are some techniques to help you raise a child with ADHD:
1. Create a Routine
Craft a daily routine for your child and ensure that he/she sticks to it. This timetable provides a framework, just like a travel itinerary, making sure that you do not miss out any activities. A predictable timetable tells your child “this is how we do things”, helping him/her focus better on tasks. To make things simple, start break the day down into mornings, after school and bedtime to handle your child’s expectations and improve behaviour.
2. Simplify & Organise
Some parents may confuse a child’s inability to organise as “lazy”. However, a lack of organisation and time management are common characteristics of a child with ADHD. To help your child get organised, you will need to keep your home neat and tidy so that your child will know where different items are, reducing unnecessary distractions.
Furthermore, you can simplify daily chores for your child by breaking down the tasks into a process. This prevents your child from getting overwhelmed by tasks and assignments, helping him/her perform better.
3. Introduce a Reward System
This is really simple, it sends a message to your child: “do a good job and you get rewarded”. To do this effectively, you will want to first, identify a problem or behaviour that should be changed. Next, tell your child the rewards to be earned for good behaviour. Lastly, stick to this system and ensure that you deliver the rewards promised.
When you praise your child for showing improvement in his behaviour, your child will feel appreciated. This will spur him/her to work even harder to see you proud of his effort.
4. Take breaks
Apart from fostering the development of your child, you will need to take your own breaks. You cannot be supportive 24/7. It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. Schedule some alone time to go for a walk or to the gym. This will help you manage both your stress and anxiety as well as your child.
5. Stay Calm
You cannot help your child if you are aggravated. Children tend to mimic the behaviours of those around them. When you do not remain calm and composed during an outburst, your child will follow your steps and eventually, be tougher to manage. Hence, the calmer you are, the calmer your child will be.
When Should You See a Professional?
As mentioned above, signs of ADHD can be quite similar to normal behaviour. If the symptoms have only occurred recently or occasionally in the past, your child most probably does not have ADHD. However, if the symptoms are disruptive and persistent (occurs in multiple settings for at least 6 months), you should seek a mental health professional to conduct an ADHD evaluation for your child.
A formal assessment by a professional will be able to give an accurate diagnosis. There are several professionals who are qualified to diagnose ADHD, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, neurologist and some physicians. Do note that ADHD cannot be diagnosed through online quizzes or questionnaires.
Where Can I Receive Support for My Child?
ADHD is a disorder that is challenging for parents and their children. Parents are advised to observe their children from a young age so that early diagnosis is made. It is important to seek help if you are unsure if your child has ADHD, do not try to self-diagnose your child as a medical professional will need to monitor the behaviors of your child over a period.
Once diagnosis is given, starting treatment and therapy promptly will ensure you and your child live a life that is not hampered by ADHD. Parents also need to follow the recommended therapy carefully. Some children require medication, while therapy is more appropriate for others. You should prioritize your child’s needs by keeping all the doctor’s appointments and being involved as much as possible in the therapy.
In Singapore, more mainstream schools are catering to students with special needs through more suitable ways of learning and a supportive environment. Beyond that, learning centres such as Singapore Brain Development Centre (SBDC) provide additional personalized support through broad, multi-skill exercises, to strengthen attention skills, enhance memory skills and more. Read on for more information on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and how SBDC’s program can help you and your child.