Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a diagnosis that people throw around quite often these days when children seem over-active or have behavioral challenges. However, ADHD is a real medical condition that we should work to understand to assure children are not mislabeled. For those children who are appropriately diagnosed, this understanding can help us support children and focus on their strengths.
The three primary characteristics of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Symptoms often begin to appear between the ages of 3 and 6. However, it is around the age of 7 that children are most commonly diagnosed. This makes sense. At age 7, children are in first grade. School becomes more structured, requiring children to sit at desks for extended periods of time, complete paper and pencil work and engage in a great deal of active listening. This change from a world of learning through play can become very difficult for the child with ADHD.
What we have to remember is that the diagnosis of ADHD only summarizes a small part of understanding the whole child. It may be the part of a child that we notice most because it can lead to disruption in our classrooms. Still, children with ADHD are smart, creative, perceptive, sensitive and athletic, just like other children. It is our role to support a child by focusing on their strengths and not just those characteristics we see as weaknesses.
My son has ADHD. Yes, there were many challenging moments while he was growing up. Yes, I worried about him often. Yes, we sought professional support for him. But I am proud to say that today he is an honor roll student in high school, active in theater and chorus, a member of multiple school clubs, working part time and attending college next year as part of their nursing program. Yes, I would like to think I had something to do with his success, and maybe I did. Truly though, my son was born a very talented child. Many people, including himself, saw these talents and believed in him. Don’t ever judge a book by its cover (or in this case, a child by his/her label)
Want to learn more about ADHD? Join Nion Early Childhood Education on Wednesday, February 13th from 7-8 pm for a live webinar, ADHD: Understanding What It Is and How to Support Children with this Diagnosis.