- The latest research on ADHD and how to treat it
- Is ADHD real and does it really matter?
- What is the difference between ADHD and ADD?
- Out of control ADHD child? Tips on how to manage behavior
- How your child’s diet affects ADHD
For those of us who have a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, life often seems like one big roller coaster ride. While it is tempting to just shout “let me off,” what we really need is support in finding the best treatment possible for children who are struggling with their diagnosis.
When it comes to finding the best treatment for ADHD the answers lie in the latest science that focuses on neurological imaging and clinical research. The more we understand how the ADHD brain works the more we can work to treat the disorder effectively.
A structurally different brain
Studies have shown that ADHD is a result of a development impairment of the brain’s self-management system, which affects a person’s executive functions. Current research has shown that some people with ADHD will only have trouble with some executive functions, but will cope well in other areas. This means that some people will get through childhood without being diagnosed and that those who have “masked” their ADHD may be diagnosed as adults.
Researchers from Cambridge University studied the memory function and brain structure of 49 adolescents with ADHD alongside a control group of young adults. Results showed that those with ADHD had reduced brain volumes indicating that they don’t just grow out of the condition as they enter adulthood as was once thought.
The structural differences in the brain mean that dopamine transmitters do not work effectively and therefore dopamine levels are low in the brains of children with ADHD. If dopamine levels in children with ADHD are low, stimulants can help levels return to normal.
In short, when people say our kids are simply playing up due to poor behavior we can correct them in saying that our child’s brain simply cannot function in the same way which means they struggle to focus on one thing, for example.
It is easy to feel guilty for medicating our children, especially when the media talks of parents “drugging” their children just to get a bit of peace. The reality is that sometimes we do need help and sometimes all of the parenting classes and mindfulness will not stop our kids from bouncing off of the walls or struggling to put pen to paper in class.
While there are measures that we can take to regulate our child’s behavior, medication does have a place. Imaging studies have shown that stimulants can support the connection of executive functions and can help children complete assigned tasks without distraction. Ritalin and Concerta are common ADHD drugs that have proven to be effective and current research suggests taking drugs like Guanfacine alongside these stimulants will have a greater effect.
Just like we would do with our neurotypical children, we need to put effective boundaries in place in order to maximize the impulsive control ADHD children exhibit. If you are tired of being called to the head teachers office because your cherub keeps shouting out in class or you daren’t go shopping unless you are prepared for a 5k chase around the store, it is time to talk to your child about impulse control. Helping your child to think before they act, through education, incentives, and bags of understanding will help your child meet family and school expectations.
You do not need to manage all of this on your own; there are therapists, doctors, and educators who are all looking into how they can help children to manage their ADHD symptoms. Techniques such as squirm therapy (fidgeting to improve memory function) and guided sports therapy are just 2 interventions that are helping families’ manage the behavior of ADHD kids.
Knowing that there is still a lot of research being carried out around ADHD is very comforting. Knowledge is power and the more we understand how we can promote inclusiveness when it comes to the condition, the happier we will be in the decisions we make for our children.