A diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children,
made by a medical professional, arises if a child has shown six or more specific symptoms of inactivity and/or hyperactivity. These symptoms would need to have occurred regularly, for a minimum of six months, in more than two settings, for example, at home and at school.

The specific symptoms of inactivity and hyperactivity can include:

  • A child that is constantly moving, fidgeting and is generally restless.
  • A child that doesn’t listen.
  • A child that has extreme difficulty playing quietly.
  • A child that talks excessively for the majority of their waking hours.
  • A child that constantly interrupts others without any apparent consideration or awareness of their behaviour.
  • A child who is very easily distracted and fails to see a task through to the end.

Many of these symptoms appear to be normal child behaviour. A child may be seen as seeking attention or perceived disobedient. However, a diagnosis of ADHD requires these symptoms to be above and beyond these behaviours in ‘normal’ child development.

Normally, a child is diagnosed with the behaviour disorder ADHD between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. Standardised guidelines set out by the American Academy of Paediatrics, are used to diagnose ADHD. Before the age of 6 years, it is difficult to diagnose the disorder as many of the symptoms of ADHD are demonstrated by younger ‘normal’ children and mark natural stages of development. Additionally, due to the rapid changes seen in the first few years of life, it is difficult do decisively diagnose a young child.

There are variations in the diagnosis of children with ADHD:

  • Combined Type: The combined type of ADHD includes symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and Impulsive behaviour. The Combined Type is the most common form of ADHD.
  • Hyperactive/Impulsive Type: Children diagnosed with hyperactive and impulsive type demonstrate symptoms of both hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. However, a child diagnosed with this type of ADHD have average levels of attention.
  • Inattentive Type: Previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), children diagnosed with the Inattentive Type of ADHD do not show the same signs of hyperactivity and overly energetic and often they will not cause disruption within their school or home environment however will have great difficulty maintaining attention and concentration. This type of ADHD therefore may go unidentified in a number of cases causing problems both academically and socially.

It is believed that between 30 and 70 percent of childhood cases of ADHD, have symptoms that persist into adulthood, subsequently the condition needs close supervision and treatment throughout adolescents.

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