Welcome to One Small Step for Parents! Our goal is to help you find the right resources, support and information that is needed to make informed choices. Without the proper tools we, as parents and adults, don't know what will help our situation or what works and doesn't work. Here at One Small Step, we have done our best to take the guesswork and confusion out of the equation by supplying tools, resources and online support.

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Can You Tell If Your Child Has ADHD?

There isn't one symptom that embodies ADHD. Rather, there are a myriad of behaviours that when manifested for a prolonged period of time, could suggest your child has this disability. I would like to state here that if you notice any of the behaviours associated with this disorder, you should not jump to the conclusion that your child has ADHD.

Diagnosing ADHD isn't simple, nor should it be. It is a complicated disorder, and there are many levels of this disability, from mild to extreme.

If you suspect your child has a problem, don't ignore it with the hopes that it will go away. You should consider having your child evaluated by a professional when any of the following conditions exist:

...for the period of at least 6 months, the child exibits inattentiveness, excessive activity and impulsiveness exceeding that in other children of the same age.

...you consistantly need to assist your child with daily personal chores, like getting dressed, personal hygiene, getting ready for bed or cleaning their room due to an inability to perform these tasks independently.

...other children do not like playing with your child or avoid the child because of excessive activity, emotional or aggressive behaviour.

...day-care staff, teachers, or other parents have told you that your child has been having significant problems with behaviour for several months.

...you repeatedly lose your temper with the child, feel you need to use excessive physical discipline to manage the child, are afraid you might be on the verge of harming the child, you are sleep deprived, exhausted, fatigued, or even depressed because of the amount of time and energy needed to manage and raise the child.

As you can see from this partial checklist, Adhd isn’t simply 'not paying attention'. Adhd is often associated with other behavioural and emotional disorders. Research shows that up to 45% of children diagnosed with Adhd have at least one other psychiatric disorder, sometimes two or more. They also display more symptoms of depression and anxiety (that aren’t high enough for a psychiatric diagnosis) than other children.

As a starting point, with a school aged child, you might want to consider having him or her evaluated. There are several tests that can be administered by the counsellors and teachers, with yourself, that help to pinpoint any problems with behaviour, inattention and hyperactivity.

One of the most important and informative books available is 'Taking Charge of ADHD - the complete authoritative guide for parents' by Russell A. Barkley, PhD. This book encompasses a wide range of relevant topics regarding this disability, from what to expect, possible solutions for getting a handle on ADHD, medications, and information resourses.

If you suspect your child does have this disability, the best way you can help is to educate yourself. The more you know, the better able you are to provide the support necessary to maintaining a healthier, happier relationship with your child. And it goes a long way to reducing the daily stress that is so prevalent with this disability.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is ADHD?

There are many opinions about ADHD, one of them being that ADHD is not a medical disability. There are a lot of people who feel that parents are simply using it as an excuse to not discipline their children. Where this could be the case in some instances, it unfortunately, in the majority of cases is not. ADHD is real.

ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and is a developmental disorder of self control. Challenges relating to attention span, impulse control and activity levels are all part and parcel of this disorder.

It is not, as you might have been hoping, a temporary state that your child will grow out of. It is not caused by your 'failure' as a parent, or lack of discipline.

It would be easier as a parent to deal with a physical manifestation of a disability because there would be no mistaking a problem. With ADHD, there is no such manifestation. These children look completely normal. There is no outward sign there is anything wrong, but there is.

Many psychologists and medical professionals believe there is an imperfection in the brain that causes the constant movement and 'bad' behaviours that people find so unbearable in these children.

The fact that you are reading this suggests that you are very familiar with with the way others react to your child's behaviours. Meaning, they erroneously assume your 'little Alice' needs more discipline, and view your attempts at parenting as permissive or careless to say the least.

I have heard on more than one occasion, "Can't you do something about your son?" Unfortunately, I am! When I answer that my son has ADHD/ODD, Anxiety Disorder and some Post Traumatic Stress, they more often than not react judgmentally. They see the 'ADHD label' as an excuse by me to avoid the responsibility of parenting my child, or worse yet, of making my son into a victim who is not accountable for his actions.

None of which is true.

It's exceedingly frustrating dealing with the hypocritical and judgmental responses. Not only do they see my son's behaviour negatively, they believe he is 'normal' (due to no physical manifestations of a disorder) and blame me for his actions. Either that, or they offer their 'worldly wisdom' that my son will 'grow out of it'.

Even my own doctor has said the same things to me. "Don't worry, it could just be a phase he is going through." or "I'm sure he will grow out of it, just hang in there." Where this might be true with some milder forms of ADHD, there is no way this will happen with my son. I have been 'hanging on' now for 11 years!

Here are a few statistics for you.
5 - 8%, or more than 2.5 million school age children have ADHD. Put in perspective, that translates to one or two kids with ADHD in EVERY classroom throughout the U.S./Canada. Up to 30 - 50% of these kids will be held back a grade (at least once) As many as 35% drop out of high school altogether. For half of these kids, social relationships are seriously messed up, and for over 60%, their consistent defiant behaviour leads to resentment from siblings and peers, which in turn means more frequent punishments and a greater potential for delinquency and/or substance abuse when they are older.

ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders the medical professionals are aware of, and one of the most misunderstood.

Here are a few more stats for you.
Over 20% of kids with ADHD have set serious fires in their communities, over 30% have stolen, 40% smoke and drink earlier, and more than 25% are expelled from high school due to serious misconduct.

In their first 5 years of driving, adolescents with an ADHD diagnosis have almost 4 times as many accidents, are more likely to cause bodily harm, and have 3 times as many speeding tickets as kids without ADHD.

Raising a child with ADHD is not for the faint-hearted. I can personally tell you this roller coaster ride is a white knuckle experience that I would gladly do almost anything not to be on.

ADHD is a disorder that needs to be taken seriously. I have been living, learning, and dealing with this for the last 11 years, and the one constant I have noticed is the lack of education regarding this disability. And I'm not only speaking about your child's teachers, neighbours, friends, family and peers. I'm talking about you as parents.

In order to help your child deal with, work through, and overcome this disability, you need to educate yourselves on the complete spectrum of this disorder. In most cases you are their only advocate, friend, adviser, and support. Your child needs you to understand what is going on with them so they don't fall through the cracks and become another statistic.

I'm not saying this is an easy task. Trust me, I would love not to have to take on this additional responsibility. I would love to have a career and carefree holidays in a tropical paradise with no worries except whether my luggage arrives the same time I do. But if I don't do this for my son, who will? Certainly not his teachers, doctors, counselors, family members or friends. And he doesn't have the focus, drive or interest to do it himself, (being the nature of the disability) so that leaves me, and I can't let him down.

So please bear with me as I help my son through helping you. Hopefully you will at the very least, know that you are not alone in your struggles.