We all have heard about ADHD; but do you really understand what it is?
Parents need to understand how kids with ADHD function differently, the signs and symptoms, and how to distinguish ADHD from other disorders, such as learning problems, executive functioning issues, and clinical issues such as anxiety. Understanding how ADHD is diagnosed is confusing and may be a long journey for parents but getting to the root cause is so important in helping your child thrive.
People with ADHD have brains that work differently. When we look at their brainwave activity with a QEEG brain map, we can literally see that they have too many unfocused brainwaves and not enough focused brainwaves. This combination of brainwaves makes it hard for people with ADHD to pay attention, have impulse control, and avoid distractions.
Often times, people misunderstand ADHD or even misdiagnose it. We often think that everyone with attention difficulties always has the brain-based disorder ADHD, however there are a lot of things that can interfere with our focus and attention. For example; anxiety, obsessive compulsive thinking, and bad sleep habits can all make it harder for you to pay attention. So, just because your child can’t focus doesn’t mean 100 percent of the time it is ADHD, you have to really look at the root cause in order to get the right treatment so your child can be successful at home, school, and socially.
We always need to look at what the reasons are because problems with attention can just creep up and cause challenges at home and school, which not only is frustrating for you but is for your child too. It is important to think about what else is going on in that child or teen’s life. Could it be depression? Anxiety? A lot of the time, I see anxiety and depression impacting attention in very much the same way that ADHD might affect someone with learning in all areas of life. This is oftentimes very surprising to parents, so we need to remember to peel back the layers and look at the source of the issue. We also need to consider, when did it start because it is important to keep in mind that if someone really does have ADHD, symptoms need to start before age seven.
Symptoms of ADHD
There are many different ways that ADHD can show up in a child. So understanding what the signs and symptoms of ADHD are is really important in getting your unfocused child the right kind of help at school and home. Some kids are fun and easygoing, but easily distracted; and then there are some kids with ADHD who can be really impulsive. Other kids may call them “obnoxious”, even though that isn’t true, but it means that they have a hard time putting their breaks on, meaning that they have difficulty with impulse control. This may wear out friendships in school environments and outside of school. It is hard for kids with ADHD who are impulsive because they don't want to do what they are doing, but they can’t seem to slow down enough to switch gears or pump the breaks. This creates a lot of shame for the child or teen with ADHD who is “always in trouble.”
There are also a lot of kids with ADHD who are extremely bright and this helps them compensate for attentional and executive functioning issues. At school, they are able to memorize information, so they look much more capable than they are. These kinds of kids can do very well until you put a lot of work on them with tight deadlines, have to complete tasks that require a lot of executive functioning, or need to be very organized. This is when you may notice inconsistent grades, forgetfulness, or behavioral issues as they begin to fail. For example, you may see your child may write a paper but can’t find it or they never turned in an assignment because they never started it even though they know the material. When executive functioning is required with a lot of written output, this is when kids with ADHD breakdown.
As a parent, you may begin to see inconsistencies in your child’s grades, or what I like to call their output. One of the things that is hardest for parents to understand about ADHD is that these kids can pay attention to what their brain is interested in, but paying attention to boring things is almost impossible for them. Their brain hyper-focuses on high interest areas and wants to ignore things in low interest areas. When someone that does not have ADHD is doing an activity that is boring to them, they have the ability to future-think and say “Well, I need to take this class to pass my licensing exams.” However, an ADHD brain would say “that is so boring” and try to find something else that is interesting to them. Getting their brain to regulate enough to be focused, have good executive functioning, and be able to take independent action is critical to their future success and is something that can be achieved with neurofeedback.
What To Do as a Parent of a Child With ADHD and How Can My Child Get Diagnosed With ADHD
When we start understanding what ADHD is, we can teach our kids about their superpowers, about their brain, and about all the ways that they can learn to pay attention even when things seem boring. Giving kids the right tools to flourish and do well is essential. Kids with ADHD also do well with a lot of structure and predictability, so their brain can get to the higher level work and not be bogged down by having to remember the routines.
So you may be wondering, “How do I diagnose my child with ADHD?” and I am here to tell you that if you suspect your child has ADHD, it is crucial to find a specialist who works with children with ADHD. You also should make sure that there are no medical sources of their difficulties, such as having nutrient deficiencies. Often, kids with ADHD are diagnosed after only having a simple and short interview. I do something called a QEEG Brain Map, which is a great way to check under the hood and make sure your child actually does have ADHD while ruling out other things like learning problems, anxiety, or even depression. ADHD is often misdiagnosed, which can easily happen because things like learning and processing issues or anxiety can interfere with one’s attention. It is a big reason why many kids and teens don’t do well on ADHD medication because they simply are misdiagnosed with ADHD when it may be something else. You have to know what the issue is before you can treat it is such a common sense thing that unfortunately isn’t the standard of care and instead the standard of care in mental health is to guess without checking under the hood.
Are you looking to find an experienced neurofeedback provider who can do a brain map or brain check? Well, we work with kids, teens, and families all over the world with our virtual neurofeedback program. Again, a lot of different sources could be impacting your child’s attention, which is why it is extremely important to find someone who specializes in ADHD. We want to gather objective data, and lab work and QEEG's are my favorite ways to get started.
And neurofeedback for ADHD is a wonderful and well researched treatment that regulates the brain so you or your child can focus, shift gears, and have an output that matches how smart they are.
For more information, check out my Youtube video on Does My Child Have ADHD?
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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.”
She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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