Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most widely diagnosed behavioral disorders among children, affecting millions of children across the United States. Due to the possible severity of the symptoms of the disorder, ADHD may carry over into adulthood of 33% of those diagnosed. Considering the impact of the disorder, ADHD may be recognized as a chronic issue lasting throughout the lifespan if left untreated. Although ADHD may be addressed by licensed mental health professionals through counseling and/or prescribed medications, there may be some options to consider that may help some children and families.
In education, Black boys are most commonly labeled as disruptive, or “troublesome” while having the most office referrals in school and lower academic progress. We should spend more time considering cultural and environmental factors that may explain their behavior.
It is not uncommon for some children to experience difficulty completing chores, homework, and focusing on tasks for extended periods of time. Many children may require increased structure and frequent communication. While this may appear to be tedious and sometimes frustrating, increased supervision and some interventions at home may prove to be helpful.
First, let’s take a closer look at ADHD. It is a neurological impairment that causes brain operation not to function properly. This includes a lack of concentration, lack of attention, difficulty learning from mistakes, impaired memory, lack of organization, and poor organizational skills. Some symptoms of hyperactivity may include the child having difficulty being still, blurting out answers in school and interrupting adults, fidgeting, and talking excessively even while at play. Write out chores or assignments and post them in a common area. This could be in the form of a checklist so the child may be reminded of chores/assignments and check them off as they are completed. Offering rewards for completed tasks may also be a helpful incentive.
Next, rule out other factors. As a therapist, I tend to rule out trauma while assessing children. Trauma is defined as an event(s) that may threaten the child (or a loved one’s) life, safety, or well-being. Over the past year, we have experienced many events that may cause a child to feel unsafe, even if it is by watching certain events on television. Social unrest and racial injustice may surely cause a child to feel threatened or unsafe. Children may express trauma in ways that appear to be ADHD symptoms. They may become fearful, resulting in fidgeting, not being able to concentrate, and acting out. This is not a comprehensive list of trauma symptoms but is certainly to be considered when evaluating children’s behavior. Monitor and limit television programs and discussions that may be disturbing to children.
I also discuss children’s daily routines and sleeping patterns. Children with insufficient sleep may also become very fidgety, unable to concentrate, make multiple mistakes, and act out. These behaviors would look a lot like trauma and ADHD. Before ruling out anything, it would be beneficial to set a routine for children and document their behavior. All of these could cause reduced cognition, difficulty regulating emotions, disruptive behavior, and poor impulse control. Start by ensuring that children have set bedtimes giving them the opportunity for adequate sleep. How much sleep is suggested?
- 1-2 years – 11 – 14 hours per day
- 3-5 years – 10 – 13 hours per day
- 6-12 years – 9 – 12 hours per day
- 13 – 18 years – 8 – 10 hours per day
Generally, I recommend limiting screen time as researchers have found that extensive screen time stimulates brain activity. That being said, if the child has extended screen time, the brain is more active, making it more difficult to sleep. During these times of the pandemic with more children schooling from home, this is more challenging. Additionally, since children are separated from their friends, researchers have also found that their anxiety increases as they feel isolated. Children need to feel connected to others, including their peers, so screen time is important. To this point, I would monitor screen time and if it appears to impair sleep, set limits accordingly.
To sum it all up, monitor your child’s behavior and academic progress, assess your child’s environment, assess your child’s sleep, and consult with your child’s doctor. This information is not meant to substitute professional interventions or promote diagnosis at home. It is intended to provide insight to your child’s behavior and environment prior to seeking medical attention or a licensed mental health professional.