Normal hyperactive children or a childhood disorder?

Tunji’s mother is becoming worried that he is very restless and is always jumping up and down the house from morning till evening. She initially downplayed her worries, after all, everyone says boys are always very active and troublesome. However, Tunji’s teacher also reports that he never sits in one place and he frequently disrupts the class because he is too restless.

The teacher is finding it difficult to cope with Tunji in class and has recommended that they should do something about him. Thus, the worried mother is now presenting in clinic, even though her friends have told her she is only worrying over nothing.

While some level of hyperactivity is common in children, often referred to sometimes as bundles of energy, it is also true that in some instances the level of hyperactivity is so severe that normal functioning is difficult and parents, caregivers and teachers struggle to cope. In such instances, it may be wise to have an evaluation by a child psychiatrist to ascertain if the child is suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

It is a disorder that is common in children, usually affecting boys more than girls, which is caused by chemical abnormalities in the brain. ADHD affects the ability of the brain to concentrate and pay attention, while also causing the child to be restless and impulsive. It specifically affects the parts of the brain that we use for planning, concentrating on tasks, self-control and problem-solving; thus resulting in the problems we see in children who have ADHD.


What are the major features of ADHD?

It is characterised by three types of problems: Impulsivity; Hyperactivity and Inattention.

So the child has significant problems with impulsivity, as they have a tendency to speak before thinking, will frequently interrupt others and keep blurting out answers….even before you complete the question. This impatience makes it difficult for them to do well in school as they are frequently in a hurry to answer the question and will therefore jump to an answer, before understanding the question properly. This negatively affects their academic performance.

Hyperactivity is another common type of problem among children with ADHD. They are very restless and usually all over the place. It appears as if they never get tired and very frequently, their caregivers and parents are completely worn out and exhausted all the time. They are also prone to accidents due to their carelessness.

Lastly, inattention is the last category of common problems that they usually display. They have trouble completing any task or their homework, they are easily distracted and so have a tendency to jump from one task to another – without completing any. They also make careless mistakes with their school work because they find it very difficult to concentrate and sustain attention on a given task for more than a few seconds.


How is ADHD different from just a hyperactive child?

A normally hyperactive child, will exhibit such tendencies on an episodic basis, but can calm down and focus on tasks. Additionally, some children may be hyperactive at home, but are better behaved when they get to school or are outside the home. Whereas, for children with ADHD, these symptoms are present all of the time and regardless of the setting: whether they are at home, in church/mosque or school…the symptoms are always present. And the severity of the symptoms makes it very difficult if not impossible for the parents or teachers to cope, without help.


What can be done for children with ADHD?

The first step is to seek expert evaluation and assessment from a child psychiatrist. If the diagnosis is confirmed, then there are medications that can be used to help such children to calm down and focus better on tasks. The treatment usually achieves very fantastic results and the drugs are not addictive and they are safe to use for a long time.

Usually the symptoms also improve as the child grows older into adulthood. In addition to treatment, parents and school teachers will also be given an explanation about what is happening, so they can better relate and cope with the situation.

So, if you have a child or you know one with hyperactivity problems and these other symptoms, seek an evaluation with a child psychiatrist nearest your location in order to receive expert care and help the child to improve their academic performance and attain their full potential. And if the child does not have ADHD, it would be re-assuring to confirm that is the case.