A Kid's Guide to ADHD


This article is written especially for kids ages 7-12 to help them understand what ADHD is, how it is treated, and how they can help themselves. While younger kids will benefit by having a parent or another older person read it to them, children ages 9-12 should be able to read this on their own.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is also sometimes called ADD for Attention Deficit Disorder. They are pretty much the same thing, though ADHD is the official name. If you are reading this article, chances are that you have ADHD or are at least wondering whether or not you might have it.

ADHD is something that kids, teens, or adults can have. People with ADHD have a hard time paying attention, sitting still, or thinking about what they say or do before blurting something out or behaving in a certain way.

For kids, this often means that you will have problems at school. If you have ADHD, chances are that you are always on the go, and find it hard to slow down. Your mind races and you think about so many things that you cannot keep your mind focused on any single thing. You might start cleaning your room and really want to finish, only to find that you start playing with something and lose track of the time. You may interrupt people a lot, or talk too much. You may steal without really thinking about what you are doing, and then feel bad about it later. You may hate waiting your turn in line.

In addition, kids with ADHD often have a hard time being organized. They often lose things such as money or keys to their house. They may forget to bring their bookbag or their lunch to school. Their desks at school and at home are often messy. These things can cause parents to yell at their kids a lot, saying things such as "why don't you pick up after yourself? How many times do I have to remind you to hang up your coat?" After awhile, it hurts to hear these things all of the time.

Not every kid who has ADHD is hyper. Some kids only have trouble paying attention and staying organized. They do not have trouble sitting still or being too active. In fact, these kids more often "space out" and do not tune into what is going on around them. Or they focus so much on one thing (like video games, the computer, or t.v.) that they cannot pay attention to anything else.

What causes ADHD?

We do not know for sure. But scientists who study ADHD believe that certain parts of the brain do not work quite right in people with ADHD. They may have too little of certain brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) to keep the brain working at the right speed.

Some people are born with it. If you have ADHD, chances are that at least one of your parents, brothers, sisters, or other close relatives has some of the same problems. Others may get ADHD later, though the problems usually show up by age 7.

How is ADHD treated?

ADHD is usually treated with both medicine and counseling. Medicines can help calm you down and get you to pay attention better. Ritalin (also called methylphenidate) is one of the most widely used medicines to treat ADHD. You usually take it between two and four times a day, because it only lasts about three to four hours. Other similar medicines include Dexedrine, Cylert, and Adderall. Cylert is different because you only have to take it once a day. Some kinds of Dexedrine are also only taken once a day.

Sometimes, other kinds of medicines are used to treat ADHD. These can include Wellbutrin (also called buproprion), Tofranil (also called imipramine), and Catapres (also called clonidine). These medicines can also help if you feel sad or angry a lot.

I don't like medicine. Do I have to take it?

It is very important to take your medicine when your parents or teachers tell you. If you do not take it every day, it is not going to work as well. NEVER take more than you are supposed to take! These medicines can be dangerous if you take too much of them. Also, if you forget to take one of your pills, ask one of your parents to see if you should still take it or wait until the next time you are supposed to take a pill.

Some of the medicines can make it harder for you to fall asleep, stop you from feeling hungry, or give you a stomach ache. These problems are called "side effects." If any of these happens to you, tell the doctor that gives your parents the medicine. Many times, these things go away after you take the medicine for awhile. If they do not, your doctor can help give you ideas on how to handle the side effects..

What is counseling? Why do I need it?

Counseling is when you talk to someone about your problems. Many kids with ADHD do not feel very good about themselves. They may have trouble finding and keeping friends. They are also yelled at a lot by teachers and parents, which makes them feel bad. They also think that because doing well in school might be harder for them, that this means they are dumb. This is NOT true! People with ADHD are just as smart as everyone else, but they may have trouble learning in the same way as other kids do.

Talking with a counselor can help you to work out your problems. The counselor can give you ideas on doing better in school, handling teasing, dealing with your angry feelings without hurting anyone, and how to feel better about yourself. He or she can even give you ideas on how to handle your parents, or even your annoying brothers and sisters!

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