ADHD was first described over 200 years ago. In the past 10 – 20 years, we have been able to refine our understanding of this condition and recognize its impact on children, adolescents and adults.
ADHD is common, affecting 8 – 10% of the population. It is officially designated as a condition that impacts attention, activity level and impulse control:
- Attention refers to the ability to pay attention to the right subject, with the right intensity for the right amount of time–and then, when it is appropriate, change our focus to the next right subject, with the right intensity and for the right amount of time.
- Over-activity refers to someone who seems to be continually active: constantly moving, restless, fidgety. They often talk a lot and have difficulty not interrupting others.
- Impulse control is the ability to consider what you are about to say or do before it happens, and then make sure that what you say or do works for your best interest.
As we have begun to better understand ADHD, we are realizing that ADHD is really something a little different. It is fundamentally a difficulty with self-regulation, with self-management, with self-control. The psychological term for this is “executive function”.
Because ADHD is a problem with executive function, we can begin to understand that the common definition (involving attention, activity level and impulse control) is just the special case of what weak executive function looks like in a primary school age child.
- If, for example, you are in 2nd grade, the expectations are that you will sit in your seat, be quiet, pay attention, get your work done. These are the “executive demands” for a 7 year old.
But as you get older, the executive demands increase and change.
- Adolescents have more homework to keep track of, they have more responsibilities at home, there are extracurricular activities, they have to negotiate the complexities of adolescent social life. They may start driving, have a part-time job.
And then, as an adult, it changes again.
- Now you have the responsibilities of work and home. You have to meet all the obligations of your job. You have to manage the home, pay the bills, do the shopping, make sure the kids are meeting all their obligations.
We now understand ADHD to be a brain-based, neuro-genetic condition. It is not a disease or a disorder–rather, it is a different way of processing information. If someone with ADHD is to be successful in life, they have to do exactly the same thing as everyone else on our planet has to do:
- They have to identify and develop their strengths.
- They have to find ways to overcome or circumvent their weaknesses.
At Woodburn Pediatric Clinic, we are committed to helping our families that are impacted by ADHD. We have a three-part approach:
- Education of parents and children about ADHD
- Medication management
- Behavioral management
If you have concerns about ADHD in your family, we welcome you to contact us today.