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ADHD - Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder

Understand attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the supports that respond to it.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - definition and symptoms

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – definition

People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have difficulty concentrating, paying attention or completing tasks of moderate complexity. They often find it difficult to “sit still”, wait for their turn and frequently act impulsively.

Symptoms of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity are the main features of ADHD.
A person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder usually has the following symptoms:

  • inability to pay attention to details, lack of attention in professional or school work

  • difficulty focusing attention on a task or game

  • difficulty staying focused during a conversation

  • avoids tasks requiring prolonged mental effort (school work, homework…)

  • often move hands and feet in seat, manipulate objects

  • difficulty waiting for his or her turn

  • doesn’t tolerate frustration

  • has difficulty controlling gestures and words during times of stress

Mixed-type ADHD refers to individuals who do not necessarily exhibit hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity at the same time. Inattention does not always rhyme with hyperactivity and impulsivity. A child can be very distracted and show no hyperactivity. Conversely, a child may be very restless and impulsive, but be able to concentrate on certain tasks.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - key figures and data

It is estimated that in France, 3.5 to 5.6% of schoolchildren suffer from ADHD. These disorders are diagnosed, on average, at the age of 9-10 years. Of the children diagnosed, 47% of them have attention deficit disorder, 36% have hyperactivity, and 17% combine both.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - the causes

The consumption of alcohol, tobacco or other psychoactive substances during pregnancy can cause too low production of dopamine in children, increasing their risk of suffering from ADHD.

Likewise, several studies show that exposure to pesticides, toxic substances and lead during fetal life and early childhood could contribute to the high prevalence of ADHD.

Finally, head trauma, as well as bacterial meningitis and prematurity are identified as risk factors for developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

What supports for those suffering from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder ?

There is no cure for ADHD. The objective of generally prescribed drugs is to reduce the effects of the disorders, in order to improve patient’s academic or professional performance, which is generally poor.

Methylphenidate drugs or amphetamine derivatives are psychostimulants that act like coffee: by stimulating the arousal centre, they help maintain attention and reduce agitation.

Atomoxetine is a drug used to reduce anxiety in children with ADHD and may also be prescribed in addition to psychostimulants.