The three major symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. But, as parents of children with ADHD already know, these three symptoms are only part of the story. Every aspect of a child’s life that is impacted by ADHD. At one time, ADHD was considered to be a school day disorder, affecting mostly a child’s performance in school settings. As more and more is learned about this disorder, it is understood that ADHD permeates much more of your child’s life. Characteristics such as forgetfulness and disorganization cause problems at home as well as in school. Secondary symptoms, such as low self-esteem, aggressiveness and emotional immaturity, play a major role in how a child and family adapt to ADHD being part of daily life.
ADHD in School
Although children with ADHD often struggle in school, it does not have anything to do with intelligence. The range of IQ for students with ADHD has been shown to be the same as students without ADHD.
ADHD is not a learning disability; however, it can cause difficulties in learning. In addition, children with ADHD have a higher incidence rate of learning disabilities and can have problems with math and reading. Some studies have indicated that as many as 50% of children with ADHD may also have a learning disability.
Disorganization, forgetfulness and losing items are also major problems for students with ADHD. Keeping track of projects, remembering homework assignments and tests are all frequent complaints of students with ADHD. They find it difficult to keep track of important information needed to manage their studies.
Inattention, a major symptom of ADHD, can cause students to miss details when a teacher is speaking, when homework assignments are giving or when other students are talking. A student with ADHD tends to pay attention to everything that is going on around them rather than being able to focus on one task.
Hyperactivity creates problems with sitting still in class. Students are expected to remain seated for extended periods of time and as they get older, sitting for longer periods is necessary. Hyperactivity, however, doesn’t go away and this continues to cause problems throughout the school years.
ADHD in Family Life
Parenting children with ADHD is often a challenge. Children with ADHD require more monitoring and supervision. School problems might require parents to spend evenings helping with homework. Parents need to be more involved in making sure they complete their chores. If parents are not able to work together to provide consistency, they could end up arguing and being at odds with one another. Often, one parent might feel the other is too harsh, while one feels the other is too lenient. Families have been torn apart by the constant conflict within the house.
In addition, siblings can feel neglected or resentful. Children with ADHD are often impulsive, acting without thinking and possibly causing arguments with their siblings. Parents can feel guilty over the amount of attention given to the child with ADHD and the lack of attention given to the children without ADHD.
Raising children with ADHD requires parents to evaluate their parenting techniques. Their children might not respond to normal discipline methods, such as time outs or grounding. They may need to adopt a new way of parenting, instituting a system of rewards and consequences.
Days could be exhausting from constant monitoring and possibly hours of homework each night. Parents who once had certain visions of family life must re-evaluate and determine new priorities. Where once a clean and peaceful home was important, now, making it through the day is enough of a priority.
ADHD is also considered to be hereditary. There is a good chance that at least one of the parents has ADHD as well. This often leads to inconsistent parenting and disorganized households. Many parents have discovered and been diagnosed with ADHD after going through the diagnostic process with their children.
Often, the tension and stress in a home with at least one child with ADHD is high. Sometimes parents feel frustration, exhaustion and the feeling that they are not going to make it through the day.
Social Skills and ADHD
Children with ADHD frequently have difficulty making friends. Those without hyperactive might be shy or introverted. They may have a hard time reaching out to other children, although once they make a friend they tend to remain friends. Children with hyperactivity, on the other hand, can be impulsive and hyperactive. This might make it appear as though they are outgoing and energetic and easily able to reach out to other children, but in fact it is harder for them to maintain friendships.
Children with ADHD are often emotionally immature. Their classmates could be years ahead of them emotionally, making it hard for children with ADHD to relate and connect with children their own age.
Some research has shown that children with ADHD, especially those that have emotional outbursts or have aggressive tendencies, have trouble getting along with their peers. Many children with ADHD feel "different" and feel as if they do not fit in, leading to feelings of isolation. In school, if their classmates or teachers single out children with ADHD, they may be humiliated or embarrassed.
Children with ADHD do tend to do better in small, structured environments. Clubs such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or extracurricular classes in art, music, martial arts or sports often work well. These activities often provide structure and consistent monitoring, giving children an opportunity to interact with other children in a supervised setting.
Emotional maturity in individuals continues to develop until around the age of 35. This process can be slower in people with ADHD, and they may not reach the level of emotional maturity of a 21 year old until they are in their late 20s or early 30s. For children with ADHD, their emotional maturity level may be well below that of their non-ADHD counterparts.
Individuals with ADHD often suffer from low self-esteem. Years of struggling in school or not feeling adequate add to these feelings. Adults, especially those that were not diagnosed or did not receive treatment in childhood, often bring the feelings of low self-worth into their adult years.
In addition, ADHD has a high incident rate of co-existing conditions. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and learning disabilities are commonly found along with ADHD. These conditions can make it more difficult to accurately diagnose and treat individuals.
For more information on parenting a child with ADHD:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.