There was a rumor at school: Thomas, the wiry guy with the curly hair, was, well . . . a freak. When he wasn't cooped up in his garage fussing with all sorts of wires and gadgets, he was in the principal's office trying to get himself out of trouble. Either he didn't finish his homework, blurted out answers without waiting for his turn, or got caught staring around the room at everybody else when he should have had his eyes glued to the blackboard.
It turns out that Thomas is very bright. It just so happens that he has AD/HD. This article explains more about this disorder, including what it's like for teens who have AD/HD.
What Is AD/HD?
In medical mumbo jumbo, AD/HD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. AD/HD is a condition that causes people to behave differently than others. Someone with AD/HD may need help focusing on tasks or subjects. AD/HD is a disorder that affects the brain. And that's why AD/HD gets a bad rap sometimes. Because its symptoms involve behavior, you can't tell that somebody has AD/HD just by looking at them.
Symptoms and Signs of AD/HD
Psychologists and other behavioral health specialists use the name AD/HD to refer to a disorder that actually has three subtypes. These three subtypes share similar characteristics, but are marked by certain symptoms by definition. Doctors use a book called the DSM-IV to determine which type of AD/HD someone has, depending upon his symptoms. This helps doctors to figure out the best ways to treat a teen who has AD/HD.
The first type is marked by inattentiveness and includes signs such as:
- inability to pay attention
- difficulty following instructions
- losing or forgetting things such as homework
This subtype used to be called attention deficit disorder, or ADD.
The second subtype involves hyperactivity and impulsivity (acting spontaneously or on impulse) and includes signs such as:
- feelings of restlessness
- interrupting others
The third subtype, which is the most common, involves a combination of signs from the other two forms. Teens who fall in this category may or may not experience hyperactivity.
If you have AD/HD, you may not be aware that you are behaving a certain way; you're just doing what comes naturally. But you might notice that it's hard for you to pay attention. You might feel bored or frustrated in class. AD/HD can affect social situations, too. For example, you might react to someone by just saying what's on your mind - what comes naturally - and then you may get the feeling that you've shocked or offended the person without even realizing it. This has nothing to do with the person you are - it's just a result of having AD/HD.
Some of the symptoms of AD/HD can be difficult to deal with and can make a teen experience many different emotions. That's where education and treatment come in - the more we understand about AD/HD, the more we can improve its treatment methods and improve the lives of people who have the disorder.
How Is AD/HD Treated?
There are a number of methods available to treat AD/HD. The key is finding the right treatment for each individual. Many doctors and scientists agree on something called a multimodal (pronounced: mull-tee-moh-dull) approach. Paul Robins, PhD, a psychologist in Wilmington, Delaware, says this approach is a way of covering all the bases and often includes information, medication, parent training, counseling, and changes made in classes at school designed to suit a teen with AD/HD's particular style of learning.
The information part means learning about AD/HD: what it is, how it works, and what can be done to treat it. Medicines such as Ritalin are often used to lessen the impulsiveness and hyperactivity of AD/HD. For example, when a person feels more focused, it will help him to pay attention and stay organized, something people with AD/HD often have trouble with.
The parent training helps because it keeps parents informed and also shows them ways they can work with their kids - both by supporting them and acting as role models by demonstrating appropriate behaviors.
Changes that can be made in classes at school to help a teen who has AD/HD include modifying his environment by having him sit in the front of the classroom. Many teens also try certain strategies, such as keeping a homework notebook in which they keep track of all their assignments, to help them stay organized.
With a treatment approach that includes so many aspects of a teen's life, there is no doubt that a teen with AD/HD might feel overwhelmed, scared, or even angry. That's where the counseling comes in. Talking about those feelings and dealing with them often makes the process much easier.
A teen with AD/HD is likely to find himself among all sorts of company, including parents, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and the school nurse. According to Dr. Robins, all these people are there to provide information and support and as long as they are appropriately trained - meaning they have experience and knowledge about treating AD/HD - the teen with AD/HD is in good hands.
If You or Someone You Know Has AD/HD
Even though AD/HD and its symptoms can be hard to understand, it's not a rare condition. It's estimated that 3% to 5% of kids and teens have AD/HD - that means if there are 200 kids in your grade, probably about 6 to 10 could have AD/HD.
People who have AD/HD often feel misunderstood or frustrated, so if you know someone who has it, your sensitivity and understanding can really help.
It's important that a teen with AD/HD follows his doctor's instructions about medication dosages. It's essential that he learns to develop behavioral strategies and strategies for problem solving. And looking to doctors, counselors, parents, friends, and teachers for support, understanding, and help in managing his day-to-day activities can help a teen with AD/HD deal with this disorder.
If you have AD/HD, you may feel pretty misunderstood at times. It might seem like you're always losing your homework or having trouble following your teachers' instructions, or you may have trouble making friends or getting along with your family members. It helps to learn as much as you can about yourself and AD/HD and find the methods that will help you work to your full potential - both academically and socially.
Each time we use a light bulb, it's a reminder that people with AD/HD are capable of achieving great success. Yep, Thomas Edison - famed inventor and renowned genius - had AD/HD, too.
Reviewed by: Steve Dowshen, MD and Paul Robins, PhD
Date reviewed: March 2001
Source: KidsHealth www.KidsHealth.com is a project of The Nemours Foundation which is dedicated to improving the health and spirit of children. Today, as part of its continuing mission, the Foundation supports the operation of a number of renowned children's health facilities throughout the nation, including the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Nemours Children's Clinics throughout Florida. Visit The Nemours Foundation to find out more about them and its health facilities for children http://www.nemours.org/no/