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As the mother of and long-time advocate for a neurodivergent daughter, I have seen first-hand the funny adventures and moments of dazzling creativity, as well as the painful frustrations, and the agonizing fear of failure.  Even though ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, it is often misunderstood, especially in girls, by both professionals and parents.  Like my heroine Queenie, these kids make it in the world by embracing their own amazing brilliance.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental or brain-based disorder. ADHD is one of the most common mental health diagnoses in children and impacts a child’s thinking, feelings and behaviour. About 5% of kids all over the world have it, regardless of ethnicity or nationality.

Studies show there is a strong hereditary component to ADHD. Children are as almost as likely to develop ADHD from their parents as their height. ADHD is not a behavioural problem caused by poor parenting, too much sugar or playing too many video games. The brains of kids with ADHD really are wired differently. Due to the lag in their brain development, kids with ADHD often seem younger than their peers by up to 3 years.

Most people with ADHD have always felt different – they know they think differently and react differently than everyone else. They’re often told they’re lazy or unmotivated and that they just have to try harder. If only it were that easy! Experts estimate that kids with ADHD receive two to three times the amount of negative feedback on a daily basis as neurotypical kids.

What does ADHD look like?

Sometimes ADHD is described as an orchestra without a conductor or a company without a CEO. ADHD looks different in each person, but generally includes:

  • Inattention – difficulty staying on task, daydreams, disorganized, loses things

  • impulsivity – blurts out answers, butts into conversation, makes impulsive decisions

  • hyperactivity – difficulty remaining seated, fidgets and squirms, talks nonstop

 

Researchers now define ADHD as a disorder of executive function rather than of attention. Executive function allows us to manage, coordinate, plan and regulate our emotions.

ADHD can be harder to diagnose in girls than in boys because girls are usually present as inattentive rather than physically hyperactive – they daydream and procrastinate and are easily distracted.

People with ADHD are often creative, energetic, caring and fun to be around. Almost 70% of kids with ADHD also have a learning issue, like dyslexia, or a mental health challenge, like anxiety or depression.

What can Help?

Although ADHD is a serious medical condition, it’s greatly improved with a variety of tools, big and small, like:

  • Extra help with organization through the use of to do lists, checklists, or day planners

  • Immediate positive reinforcement (rewards) and/or consequences (loss of favourite activity)

  • Location in the classroom which limits distractions

  • Breaks to move around, fidget toys 

  • Extra time for assignments and tests

  • Mindfulness, yoga and breathing exercises

  • Proper nutrition and sleep

  • Therapy and coaching

  • medication

 

Where can I get more information?

Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada - caddac.ca

Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance - caddra.ca

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder - chadd.org

ADDitiude magazine - additudemag.com

Understood - understood.org

Understanding ADHD in Girls & Women, edited by Joanne Steer

How to ADHD, by Jessica McCabe

A Novel Mind - Chris Read

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