ADHD, four little letters that refer to attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity, a health problem that affects 5 to 9 percent of school-aged children and 2 to 5 percent of adults. Contrary to what some people believe, ADHD is not a behaviour disorder, but rather a neurobiological disease characterized by a disturbance in certain brain molecules. It does not only affect boys, as girls can also have ADHD.

For children to be diagnosed with this disorder, they must present with at least six symptoms from a pre-established list, and the symptoms must have had a significantly negative impact in at least two areas of their life (e.g. home and school) for at least six months.

ADHD is often diagnosed when children start going to school, sometimes after comments from teachers or other school workers who noticed certain signs. The structure that comes with school life tends to highlight some of the symptoms that may not have been as noticeable in the family setting (they may have been underestimated or minimized by parents). However, only a physician can officially diagnose ADHD after an in-depth evaluation of the child that includes an overall health assessment, not just possible ADHD symptoms. 

Do children with ADHD necessarily have to take medication? The answer is no. The first step is to implement behavioural strategies to help these children concentrate better and not “scatter” their attention so much. If these strategies are insufficient, then it is recommended that medication be added. There are many different types of ADHD medication, each with its specific attributes. It’s important to build a bond of trust with the doctor and pharmacist to ensure proper follow-up, particularly early in the treatment, because it is sometimes necessary to try a few different products before finding the one that yields the best results.

Children with ADHD also need help to get better organized and more focused, so that they can learn more effectively in school.To learn more about ADHD, visit the center for ADHD awareness, Canada (CADDAC).

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