Dr. Barry Birnbaum explains the signs and behaviors of children with ADHD and offers concerned parents the next steps in getting help.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the fastest-growing disabilities of children, and today, it is estimated that 4%–12% of school-age children are affected by it. “For many parents, it is difficult to discern if their child’s behavior is that of a typical child or if it results from ADHD,” says Dr. Barry Birnbaum, special education specialization coordinator for the PhD in Education program in The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership. “In order to successfully parent a child with ADHD, parents need to understand ADHD’s characteristics and treatment options.”

Spotlight on Walden spoke with Dr. Birnbaum, who highlights the signs of ADHD and potential options for parents:

Know the signs and assess your child’s behavior. Children with ADHD are constantly moving—squirming, jumping out of seats, or tapping repeatedly. They may also show signs of boredom, withdrawal, and staring out the window. Oftentimes they don’t pay attention to assigned tasks or don’t finish them, and they may not take responsibility for actions or even recognize that their behavior is wrong.

Contact a knowledgeable medical professional. If you think your child has ADHD, contact a medical professional such as a pediatrician, psychologist, or child psychiatrist to get a referral for someone who knows and understands ADHD and can work with you to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Look at all options. It’s important to realize medication isn’t the only answer and parents should look at all options before making a decision. While medications often work, other natural alternatives include a vitamin regimen, individual and family counseling, and working one-on-one with your child on behavior management techniques.

Partner with your child’s school. Build relationships with teachers and other school personnel to make informed decisions about your child’s education, determine what will work best for him or her, and ensure your child’s needs are met as part of the ADHD treatment plan. Consider modifying class schedules to avoid a heavy morning workload or rigorous back-to-back classes as well as scheduling physical education in the morning to help release energy and improve focus later in the day. You can also discuss assigning classroom tasks and responsibilities to help your child learn to focus while emphasizing the importance of completing a task promptly.

Join or start a support group. A school psychologist or social worker can help locate ADHD support groups and the national nonprofit organization Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)  is another valuable resource. In addition, many community centers and religious organizations offer groups and activities for children with ADHD and their families to burn off energy after school and on weekends.

Be patient with your child. Remember, ADHD is not a disease. Changing behavior can take months, but it can be managed if children and parents start with a positive plan and work on it together.

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