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By Isabelle Banin
Understanding attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and knowing when to seek a specialist’s evaluation can make all the difference in your child’s life.
In general terms, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the prefrontal cortex—the section of the brain in charge of attention, behavior, and other areas related to self-control and regulation.
There are different types of ADHD. ADHD Combined Type has three main features: inattention, high activity level and impulsivity. Some children have the Inattentive Type, and may seem spacey or lost in their thoughts. Others have the Hyperactive Type, and may appear fidgety or restless. Unsurprisingly, the Inattentive Type is more often overlooked. This type is also more common in girls and is one of the many reasons why girls with ADHD are underdiagnosed.
To make ADHD even more complicated, some children with ADHD hyperfocus when they play video games for hours, but have difficulty sustaining focus for homework, tasks, or activities that need to be completed. One reason for this inconsistency has to do with dopamine levels and transporters. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that drives us toward activities that feel rewarding and pleasurable. As a result, some people with ADHD are hyperfocused while doing activities they enjoy, but struggle to attend to other tasks.
“If your child has ADHD, there’s about a 50% chance they have another condition. The most common co-occurring conditions are learning disorders, an anxiety disorder or other mood disorders,” said Rebecca I. Nelson, PhD. Dr. Nelson is a pediatric assessment specialist with the Developmental Follow-Up Clinic within the Department of Pediatrics at NorthShore. “Having more than one condition means that symptoms may overlap or mask each other, so close attention to differential diagnosis or dual diagnosis is important.”
For example, difficulty sustaining attention or completing activities could be due to a short attention span, learning difficulties, anxiety or depressive feelings.
Here are Dr. Nelson’s tips to support your child with ADHD and help them succeed academically and socially.
At NorthShore, our team is available to help you with any questions or concerns that you may have regarding your child’s physical, cognitive and/or social development.
If you feel that your child’s development may be delayed, please speak with your child’s pediatrician, who can provide you with information about testing and treatments offered by our specialists at NorthShore’s Developmental-Behavioral Pediatric Clinic or the Developmental Follow-Up Clinic.