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Updated: 9/14/2012 3:10 pm Published: 9/13/2012 4:34 pm

September is ADHD Awareness Month. By now, most people are probably aware of ADHD, but do you understand it? Carrie Little from Family & Children’s Services stopped by GDGC to talk about the ABCs of ADHD.

ADHD is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior and hyperactivity. It’s one of the most common childhood disorders, but can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Life can be a balancing act for any adult, but if you find yourself constantly late, disorganized, forgetful, and overwhelmed by your responsibilities, you may have ADD/ADHD. It affects many adults, and its wide variety of frustrating symptoms can hinder everything from your relationships to your career.

Common myths about ADHD:

MYTH: ADD/ADHD is just a lack of willpower. Persons with ADD/ADHD focus well on things that interest them; they could focus on any other tasks if they really wanted to.
FACT: ADD/ADHD looks very much like a willpower problem, but it isn’t. It’s essentially a chemical problem in the management systems of the brain.

MYTH: Everybody has the symptoms of ADD/ADHD, and anyone with adequate intelligence can overcome these difficulties.
FACT: ADD/ADHD affects persons of all levels of intelligence. And although everyone sometimes has symptoms of ADD/ADHD, only those with chronic impairments from these symptoms warrant an ADD/ADHD diagnosis.

MYTH: Someone can’t have ADD/ADHD and also have depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric problems.
FACT: A person with ADD/ADHD is six times more likely to have another psychiatric or learning disorder than most other people. ADD/ADHD usually overlaps with other disorders.

MYTH: Unless you have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child, you can’t have it as an adult.
FACT: Many adults struggle all their lives with unrecognized ADD/ADHD impairments. They haven’t received help because they assumed that their chronic difficulties, like depression or anxiety, were caused by other impairments that did not respond to usual treatment.

If you suspect your child has ADHD, talk to your child’s pediatrician or school officials. There are tests that can determine whether your child does indeed have ADHD. Some families choose to give their children medication to control symptoms, others try coping techniques, and some do a combination of both.

Here are a few basic things you can do you assist your child with his or her attention problems:
  1. Create structure and routine. For example, if your child is school-aged, give her a place to set her school work, backpack, shoes, etc. each day so she can always find her things. Make a to-do list for mornings to help keep her on track so she can get to school on time every day.
  2. Make sleep a priority. Set a hard and fast night time routine and bedtime. Let your child know it is non-negotiable, except for the occasional “special” night.
  3. Cut out processed food and artificial colors. Serve fresh fruits and vegetables with lean protein. Get rid of soda and other sugary drinks.
  4. Physical exercise is important for all children. Set aside time each day for running, jumping, bike riding, or any other physical activity your child enjoys. Make it fun, and do it together! Exercise the brain as well. Reading together, doing a puzzle, or playing board games with your child are great ways to improve focus and confidence.

Family & Children’s Services has a number of classes to help people manage relationships in their lives and offers individual, couples, family and group counseling too. For more information, call 918.587.9471.

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