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Help With ADHD

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. ADHD also affects many adults. Symptoms of ADHD include inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).

An estimated 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD.1,2 ADHD is often first identified in school-aged children when it leads to disruption in the classroom or problems with schoolwork. It can also affect adults. It is more common among boys than girls.

Many ADHD symptoms, such as high activity levels, difficulty remaining still for long periods of time and limited attention spans, are common to young children in general. The difference in children with ADHD is that their hyperactivity and inattention are noticeably greater than expected for their age and cause distress and/or problems functioning at home, at school or with friends.

Read more on symptoms & treatment

  • Jun 24, 2020
FDA Approves First Game-Based Therapy for ADHD

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this month  approved a video game-based therapy for treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is the first game-based therapy, called a digital therapeutic device, approved by FDA for any type of condition.

  • Apr 02, 2020
The Power of Pets for Your Well-being

Most pet owners are well aware that pets make our lives better, but they can also help improve our health. Research continues to identify many ways pets help improve our health, including helping maintain mental health and well-being. More than two-thirds of us, about 68% of U.S. households, have a pet.

  • Dec 16, 2019
How Common are Mental Health Disorders Among Children and Teens?

An estimated 15% of children and adolescents will be diagnosed with a mental disorder before age 18, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry last month.

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Active Minds

My son's teacher keeps sending notes home about his behavior at school and I don't understand the problem. He is fine with me, maybe a handful for his mother and his grandparents. Should I ask for them to change his teacher, or is there a problem?

You are fortunate to have good management skills that help you with your child's behavior. Parents often get confusing reports about their children, and there are many factors that need to be considered. A good starting point is a meeting with your child's teacher and school guidance counselor. Ask for another observation of your child in the classroom. If the problems continue, there are behavior rating scales that help to clarify the problem behaviors. The Vanderbilt Assessment Scales used for diagnosing ADHD are readily available and the standard in many communities. Your child’s doctor may be comfortable with the next steps in the evaluation or you might look for a mental health professional, such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, to continue the evaluation process. More

Are there side effects with ADHD medications that we should be worried about with children? What about adults taking ADHD medications long-term?

Like all medications there are important side effects that should be considered if a decision is made to try medications for treatment of ADHD. The most serious side effects involve the heart, primarily in children who have known heart problems. More common side effects are lack of appetite, sleep problems and moodiness. Usually these side effects can be managed with adjustments in the dosage, timing of dose or changing to another medication. Your child’s treatment will involve regular follow-up visits to monitor for any of these problems.

Most children with ADHD will continue having problems with concentration and focus during adolescence and adulthood. Research has confirmed that medications continue to be effective into adulthood. While there are few studies looking at very long-term effects it appears that the long- term benefit outweighs the risks. More

My 17-year-old son with ADHD does not want to take his medication anymore. Should I continue to try to get him to take the medication?

Adolescents with almost any medical condition will insist that they can manage their treatment. “I would rather do it myself.” Fortunately, in most cases the physician has anticipated this and steps have been taken early to help your child learn about his condition, identify target symptoms that improve with treatment and encourage open discussion about side effects. Trials off medication are welcomed. Explore your son’s reasons for wanting to be off medication. It may be a side effect that he has not discussed with his doctor. Identify the likely changes that are expected during a trial off medication. Your son might be willing to identify a neutral observer (a favorite teacher, a coach) who can help monitor for problem issues. Their observations may feel less “parental.” More

Are there non-medication ADHD treatments that are effective?

There are many steps that a family can take short of medication. Usually these involve close attention to a problem behavior and developing a strategy (not punishment) that might change the behavior. Some are straight forward – tighter routines in the morning while getting ready for school, close monitoring of homework assignments and school projects that require planning, or accommodations at school for tests. Some families benefit from counseling to examine conflicts at home.

There are many other “treatments” on the market that promise to be the answer for your child. Most of their claims have not been adequately tested for safety or long-term benefit. In this area parents have to be very informed consumers. A conversation with your child’s pediatrician is a good place to start. More

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About the Expert:

Scott Benson, M.D.
Pediatric Psychiatrist
Pensacola, Fla.

Tammy’s Story

Tammy, an 8-year-old third grader, was halfway through the second grading period when her parents asked for another conference with her teacher. Her grades were very low with failure to complete class assignments and inconsistent performance on homework.

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JUNE 23 2020

Study Explores Medication Decision Making for African American Children with ADHD
Additude

In a synthesis of 14 existing studies, researchers have concluded that African American children with ADHD are significantly less likely than their White counterparts to treat their symptoms with medication for three main reasons: caregiver perspectives on ADHD and ADHD-like behaviors; beliefs regarding the risks and benefits associated with stimulant medications; and the belief that ADHD represents a form of social control. 

JUNE 15 2020

In a landmark decision, FDA greenlights a video game for kids with ADHD
STAT

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday for the first time gave a green light to a game-based therapeutic: a video game meant to be prescribed to kids with ADHD. The  game, know as EndeavorRX and developed by Boston-based Akili Interactive Labs can now be marketed as a way to improve attention function in kids with ADHD as measured by computerized testing.

JUNE 10, 2020

Race and ADHD
Psychology Today

Race is highly relevant to research and clinical care for ADHD. In random household surveys using formal diagnostic procedures, ADHD has the same prevalence in White and BIPOC groups. But in actual clinical practice, ADHD is under-identified in Black versus White groups. (It is unclear if it is under-identified in Black groups or over-identified in White groups). When they do get treatment, Black youth are more likely than White to discontinue treatment or use it only intermittently, doubtless for multiple reasons not well studied.