Raising ADHD Awareness

Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - 10:15am

The Attention Deficient Disorder Association describes Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as “a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors,” which affects “11 million people in the U.S. It occurs in both men and women and, in the majority of cases, persists throughout the lifespan.”

We interviewed Jennifer Tran, DO, a Fellow in the Psychiatry Department’s Child and Adolescent program, to learn more about how ADHD is recognized, its challenges, and support mechanisms for those with ADHD.

Jennifer Tran, DOWhat exactly is ADHD and how is it recognized and diagnosed?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that leads to impairment in functioning. It is often recognized in school-age children when they are having difficulty completing major functions in life such as going to school, learning to behave in a family, and making friends. When working with children, this clinical evaluation also takes into consideration observations made by a child’s parents, teachers, and other caretakers.  Although it is usually first identified in childhood, ADHD can be diagnosed in people of all age groups with a clinical evaluation performed by a professional, such as a primary care physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist.

Does ADHD affect the genders differently?

ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls. One of the challenges of diagnosing and treating ADHD appropriately is recognizing that symptoms may differ between males and females. Compared to their male counterparts, girls with ADHD have more inattentive symptoms and are less likely to be referred for treatment. Boys who exhibit hyperactivity and disruptive behaviors are more often noticed by school officials and parents. As people with ADHD grow older, gender differences between males and females lessen as symptoms of hyperactivity generally improve.

What are some of the challenges that people with ADHD face?

Some of the challenges may include problems with focus, multitasking, planning/organization skills, time management, impulsivity, and coping with stress. These challenges make everyday demands more difficult to accomplish.

How do those challenges affect their lives?

These challenges can disrupt the social, cognitive, and emotional development of people with ADHD. For example, children with ADHD may misbehave, be disruptive, and find themselves in situations where they are punished more frequently than their peers. Children with ADHD often have behavioral symptoms that garner negative attention and lack skills that attract positive attention. This can result in a cycle of worsening negative self-esteem that further contributes to increased problem behaviors over time. In adults, undiagnosed or untreated ADHD can limit their potential to do well socially, academically, interpersonally, and in family roles.

What are some of the treatments for ADHD?  How does the Banner – University Medical Center - South Child & Adolescent Clinic help treat children with ADHD?

Types of treatment for ADHD include behavioral therapy and medications. At the BUMC - South Child and Adolescent Clinic, each evaluation of a child also includes reviewing the family and school environments to implement holistic approaches to care. In addition to prescribing medications, we can provide individual therapy to the child to gain a better self-image, individualize recommendations for behavioral interventions at school, and provide parent-management training designed to give caretakers the skills to help their children.

How can schools and workplaces help people with ADHD?

In school, an IEP (individualized education plan) and a 504 plan can offer accommodations for students to help manage their ADHD. Examples of school accommodations include allowing students to take tests in different rooms with fewer distractions, providing more time to complete assignments, and providing written instructions in addition to verbal instructions. In the workplace, ADHD is considered a disability and is covered under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Examples of accommodations include workspace alterations, work schedule changes, and frequent breaks. School and workplace accommodations often work best when they are tailored for the individual needs of the student or employee based on the severity and specific symptoms of their ADHD.

What are some of the support mechanisms and resources you recommend for people with ADHD?

I recommend checking out CHADD.org, the website for Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. They offer information not only for people with ADHD but also parents, educators, and professionals. On their website, you will also find access to online and local support groups, peer training for individuals with ADHD, parents, and teachers, and the National Resource Center on ADHD.