This article is for entertainment purposes only. Author is not responsible for diagnosis or therapy misadventures, but hopes that information might be somewhat helpful. For scientifically proven advice, go to the following sources: CDC | NIH | CHADD
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) actually exists, but some people still deny it. About 1 in 20 children in the US have it. There is no exact test for it. No blood test, no X-ray, no bacterial culture—only a few circumstantial brain imaging modalities and routine behavioral questionnaires.
Usually the parents ask the psychiatrist for a diagnosis or the teacher requests an intervention. When it comes to that, the participants have already suffered enough. One person’s ADHD can create havoc and dominate the whole family.
What is ADHD? In simple terms, a wiring problem in the prefrontal cortex (“main brain”), the control center for organization, reasoning, and planning. This “executive functioning” problem makes people with ADHD behave like they do in “wiggly” ways.
Experts agree that “attention deficit” is a misnomer. These persons pay actually too much attention to all kinds of negligible stimuli. Their brain can’t sort the signals out. Add to that an intense focusing difficulty (maybe disability) to stay on one task.
So it would be better to say “attention SPAN deficit,” because for people with ADHD it can be next to impossible to exert prolonged cognitive efforts. Some might be able to hyper-focus in extreme situations—adrenaline junkies.
Many books have been written about the symptoms and therapy of ADHD, but the daily life with it may put entire families on edge. My friend Trish, whose son was finally diagnosed with ADHD, came up with her own “diagnostic tool.”
Signs of ADHD may be, when your child (toddler to elementary age kid)
- lives in the moment totally
- does not learn to “walk” until age 16 but runs, skips, scoots, slides, tumbles, stumbles, bumps into corners, cartwheels through the house
- cuts sharply in front of your feet to beat you to the door every time you need to answer the bell
- causes you to turn the door handle inside out on her/his room or gives you reasons to pick the bathroom door with a screwdriver
- shoves a paper to sign under your nose while you are washing dishes, or unavoidably runs to the restroom as the family gathers for dinner (off on timing, space, etiquette)
- makes you want to duct-tape his/her arms to the shopping cart to get through the store without toppling a tall stack
- won’t sit still long enough to finish a meal; does the ants-in-pants wiggle dance up and down of chairs; turns every dinner into a circus balancing act of knocking over, breaking, or spilling things; paints with ketchup on the table cloth, refuses to eat, or flicks blueberries under the table
- sits still only when you switch on the TV or computer (which switches “off” the kid, a tragic therapy), but then gets square-eyed sucked into the screen, and, ultimately throws a fit when stimulus (TV, computer, etc.) is withdrawn
- makes you cringe at the idea that he/she will outgrow the high chair and that the public kindergarten does not offer such fixtures in class
- tears up the knees on all her/his pants and helps the process along with scissors and pens and other tools
- exhibits unusual clumsiness, tripping or bumping into objects; collects every day another booboo at recess on the playground (space, speed, balance, judgment, coordination problems)
- interrupts your sentence before you get to the middle of it or finishes your story for you without an idea where it is going
- leads you to believe that reading and homework are terrible punishments (punishment it is, but only for the parents trying to navigate her/him through)
- delays homework to the last minute, only to make a dramatic catastrophe of it, because it takes a screaming tantrum or blistering argument to kick-start her/his brain to produce the necessary adrenaline rush
- cartwheels through the house or stands on his/her head to get into the mood for reading
- answers when asked why he/she didn’t do the homework or the daily chores or the piano practice, “Because I didn’t want to”
So much for these “hyperactive” symptoms. In Part II, Trish will describe attention-related and oppositional symptoms.