Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a group of disorders that include inattentiveness, over-activity, and/or impulsivity. Daycare providers must recognize the signs of symptoms of ADHD as well as how to manage children diagnosed with the disorder.
Our interview with special educator and author of A Parent’s Guide to Developmental Delays, Laurie LeComer, details the important aspects of ADHD in a daycare or preschool setting.
OwnADaycare: What is ADHD?
Laurie LeComer: The letters ADHD stand for a common disorder called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is believed that approximately 9 percent of children have one form of ADHD. It most commonly occurs in boys. Some children are considered to have ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, which is marked by inattentiveness, confusion, distractibility, and an avoidance of tasks that require focus and effort. Others have Hyperactivity Disorder, which causes excessive physical activity along with impulsivity. Children that are hyperactive have difficulties with waiting, tend to interrupt, and often act before thinking. Some children have the “combined type” of difficulties, meaning they struggle with both compromised attention and hyperactive behaviors.
OwnADaycare: How is ADHD diagnosed?
Laurie LeComer: ADHD in children may be diagnosed by a pediatrician, or by an evaluation team in your local public school system. Children may also be diagnosed at a child development clinic at a university or hospital center. Doctors and child professionals may try to observe a child’s behavior in a couple different environments. They will also have parents, teachers, or daycare providers fill out detailed checklists on the child’s symptoms, strengths, and weaknesses. Though brain scans have shown slight differences in the brains of children with ADHD, the disorder is diagnosed through observable behaviors that have occurred over time in multiple environments. No scans or blood tests are currently used to diagnose a child with ADHD.
OwnADaycare: Many times, diagnosis of ADHD comes sometime after the age of 6. Can you please explain why? In other words, why is early diagnosis difficult and when is the earliest that a child can be diagnosed with ADHD?
Laurie LeComer: It is very difficult to diagnose ADHD before the age of seven-years-old. Typically, children from ages 2 to 6 develop self-regulation skills and “in seat/focus” behaviors at different rates. There are even some differences exhibited between male and female children. It is important to make sure that the behaviors in question are not environmentally caused or situation-based. Different styles of family life, structured/unstructured home or daycare settings, even personal traumas can affect children’s behavior. While many young children “develop out of” ADHD-like behaviors as they naturally grow and develop new skills, children with true ADHD continue to struggle. The symptoms of ADHD cause children to begin to fall behind both socially, and academically.
OwnADaycare: What are the symptoms of ADHD in preschool children?
Laurie LeComer: It is very difficult to diagnose ADHD in preschool children. Though some children may exhibit inattention, learning and social difficulties, these symptoms may be indicative of other delays or disabilities, or not be anything other than a difficult -yet typical- stage of the child’s development. Congruently, some children who have ADHD may not show clear symptoms before the age of 4 or 5.
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