What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. An estimated 11% (around 6.4 million) of children ages 4-17 in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011, and many continue to suffer from ADHD into adulthood. ADHD manifests in many negative ways involving school performance, friendships and behavior at home, but if diagnosed properly it is manageable through ADHD treatment.
There are three types of ADHD:
- Inattentive ADHD (formerly known as ADD)
- Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD
- Combined ADHD
The Symptoms of ADHD
Symptoms of ADHD develop over a period of time and must persist for at least six months to the point of being disruptive or inappropriate for the individual’s developmental level. The broad symptoms are:
- Hyperactivity or restlessness
- Disruptive behavior
Any of these symptoms on their own, or in combination, may indicate ADHD. Impulsiveness and hyperactivity are often noticed first, but that may be because the child that is talkative or exhibits extrovert behavior is often noticed before the “inattentive daydreamer.” Indicators vary from child to child depending on the environment they are in—and what that environment demands of them.
Symptoms of ADHD are exhibited in most children or young adults at some point, so it is important to remember that just because a child may exhibit these symptoms from time to time does not mean that they have ADHD. Exhibiting these symptoms over an extended period of time is an indicator that they may suffer from ADHD, but there are other potential causes of this behaviour.
Hyperactive children are always “on the go” and continuously talk. Sitting still or being quiet can be difficult. Those who suffer from this type of ADHD are internally restless, often feeling the need to keep busy and do many things at once. Hyperactive symptoms are often present at an early age.
Impulsive children cannot control immediate actions or reactions. They often do not “think before they speak” and show emotions without restraint. Those who suffer from this type of ADHD often act without a consideration of consequences. As an impulsive young adult a person may choose to engage in activities that offer instant rewards, rather than spending time with a more difficult but rewarding task.
Indicators of hyperactivity-impulsivity:
- Feeling restless, fidgeting, squirming
- Inability to sit still
- Talking excessively and out of turn
- Difficulty in playing quietly or engaging in quiet leisure activities
Children diagnosed with this type of ADHD have trouble focusing on any one task and may get bored with that task after only a few minutes, especially if it is new. They often have trouble organizing multiple steps or completing the job. These children have a significant problem paying attention and are regularly forgetful. They may process information more slowly and less accurately than other children. Children with this type are often better at socializing than those with Hyperactivity-Impulsiveness ADHD and may appear to be “quiet workers” which can make identifying the disorder difficult.
Indicators of inattention:
- Inability to sustain attention on activities
- Lacking attention to detail and making multiple mistakes
- Becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds
- Inability to follow instructions
- Does not finish tasks like chores or homework
- Losing or forgetting things
- Not appearing to listen when spoken to directly
- Avoiding mental tasks that require concentration
- Disorganized work habits
Labelling and Misdiagnosing ADHD
A child that suffers from ADHD may experience labelling as a result of his or her behaviour. For example, an impulsive child may be labeled a “discipline problem” or the “class clown”. A passive child may be described as “unmotivated,” “careless” or “spacey.” These labels can have a negative affect on a child’s self-image and self-worth.
Labelling a child with ADHD may also have a negative impact by covering up a different, more significant problem—such as drug abuse. There are symptoms common to a number of disorders and proper diagnosis is essential to a healthy future.
The goal is to teach the child how to manage ADHD in a healthy and positive way so that it does not carry forward into adulthood. Wilderness Therapy provides a calming setting in which to teach participants behaviours, values and good habits that can make ADHD more manageable and less destructive. Holistic nutrition, meditation and physical activity are all components to a wilderness therapy program and have all been shown to have positive effects on managing ADHD. Often times, when participants embrace these components they no longer exhibit the symptoms associated with the disorder.
For information on ADHD, and suggested ADHD Treatment, call Rites of Passage at (800)794-0980 to learn how our programs can help.