According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a persistent pattern of inattention and-or hyperactivity and impulsivity that interferes with functioning and development.

ADHD begins in childhood, and symptoms are present before the age of 12. Typically, children will likely be assessed once they begin school because their symptoms make them stand out from their peers and-or affect their functioning in a way that is noticeable to teachers and other adults.

Symptoms of the disorder must manifest in more than one setting: e.g., home and school, for a diagnosis to be made. The subtypes of ADHD include: 1. Inattention, and, 2. Hyperactive-Impulsivity.

The specifications for the diagnosis include: Combined Presentation, in which both 1 and 2 criteria are met within the last six months; Predominantly Inattentive presentation; and Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive presentation. Children with ADHD tend to act without thinking, can have excessive energy and have trouble focusing.

Although they may understand what is expected of them, they often have trouble following through. The reason? Well, they have difficulty paying attention to details, following instructions, sitting still, and remaining calm, or focusing on one task at a time.

Yes, many children appear to be this way, especially younger ones. The difference is that children with ADHD present with behavioral and-or attention difficulties across settings (e.g., school, church, home). These difficulties make them appear different from other children in their age group and impair their academic and-or social development.

Then there is emotion. Dr. Russell A. Barkley, an internationally recognized clinical psychologist who specializes in ADHD, describes emotional self regulation as:

  1. The ability to inhibit inappropriate behavior related to a strong emotion (positive or negative).
  2. The ability to self soothe any physiological arousal related to No. 1.
  3. Refocus attention from the emotionally provocative event.
  4. Organize emotions to meet goals and long-term welfare.

The good news is that there is help. The first step is finding a qualified professional who can make sense of what is happening. That is, finding a psychologist who can assess and diagnose your child and a pediatrician who can recommend medicinal options available. Psychologists can also assist in creating a behavioral plan and course of action for you and your child.

Although the behaviors that a child with ADHD has can be very challenging to a parent, it is best not to confuse the behavior with the child. You do not have a bad child or a “hyperactive” child; you have a child who needs your love, your support, your patience and understanding, and your confidence.

Overall, this will help your child learn about ADHD and how to manage the symptoms, but an early start is imperative. Yes, your child can succeed.

Kelly Nicholson, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist with Psychological and Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.