Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), is the most common psychiatric disorder among children today. Its symptoms are not necessarily obvious and start at various times. Some children give indication of having the disorder before they are born, others are not diagnosed with having it until their preteen years. ADHD overlaps with several other conditions, further confusing physicians and mental health professionals who attempt to provide a diagnosis.
Hyperactive children, who are often misdiagnosed as “emotionally disturbed,” create a lot of chaos in the home and at school. The number, severity, and types of symptoms differ from one child to the next, each of whom show a different pattern of behavior and personality. There are, however, certain similarities among ADHD children.
ADHD was described as early as 1845 by the German physician Henrich Hoffman in his classic Der Struwelpeter (Slovenly Peter), a collection of humorous moral tales for children. The heroes were taken from his observations of children. In 1902, Dr. G. F. Still, described the behavior of a group of hyperactive children. He knew of no medical reasons for their behavior and made no mention of their educational needs or social skills. He said that part of the problem with ADHD children was “deficient training in the home.” In 1923, researcher, F. G. Ebaugh, was one of the first to publish a professional paper recognizing ADHD as a long-term problem requiring cooperation and intervention by several professional disciplines.
Over the past four decades, dozens of labels have been used for a collection of traits that has come to be known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Children who have some of these traits show them most of the time; the types, number, and level vary within each child from moment to moment and from situation to situation.
Research studies point to a 5 to 10% number of children who have the syndrome. Some experts believe the true number is closer to 20% of the general population. In a recent study of over 9000 children in the Midwest, the number of children who have been medically diagnosed as hyperactive was about 3%. The number of undiagnosed children, based on data from teachers and parents, was estimated at about 4%. In a comparable study in Canada, the overall number of ADHD was 5%. Of the children referred to mental health clinics in the United States, 3 to 5% are diagnosed as having ADHD. Surveys employing teachers and parents ratings generally find a 10 to 30% number of ADD children (with or without hyperactivity) in school-age populations.
Many characteristics of ADHD children are socially appropriate and desirable. Their zest, tirelessness, enthusiasm, intensity, curiosity, and life of the party energy have their useful moments and serve as social catalysts. Researches believe there is a link between ADHD and giftedness. ADHD children have rich imaginations and can quickly generate new and different ideas. They also seem to be aware of sensations that others miss. They can combine unrelated ideas in ways so their art productions and written compositions show a special measure of creativity. When ADHD children are treated biochemically, these personal expressions display even greater variety, depth, and attention to detail. Some of the most creative people in history, including Thomas Edison, had this disorder.
ADHD is difficult to diagnose because, like all behavior disorders, it tends to appear gradually. Neurological and physiological studies indicate that ADHD sufferers have a wide range of biochemical imbalance and uniqueness. Symptoms phase in and out in various settings and change somewhat from moment to moment. The child often seems mentally alert, smiling, energetic, and interested in contact with others. One of the most difficult aspects of this disorder is deciding how much of the unusual behavior is “normal.”
Compared with ADHD girls, ADHD boys are generally more likely to be overactive, too aggressive, too disruptive, and referred for child guidance services. Both ADHD girls and ADHD boys are physically active and rowdy, with the girls being tomboyish. Among ADHD children 60 to 80% are boys.
ADHD sufferers are poor at focusing concentration, channeling effort, and saving energy for useful purposes. It is if they are drawn magnetically to any stray flash of light, any noise, or