Author’s note: While working as a child psychologist at the Astrum Multidisciplinary Diagnostic and Treatment Center , I wrote this short article for the parents of those children who have been diagnosed with ADHD. The article was written for psychoeducational purposes and covered for parents, at times, such a confusing topic as “children’s hyperactivity”.
A tireless, inattentive, impatient little child, often called “hyperactive”, he is like a “perpetual motion machine” or “Yule”, over and over again bringing parents to tears and frenzy, teachers and educators to irritation, anger and a sense of his own helplessness … Is he Is hyperactivity just a childish whim or a manifestation of a serious psychological problem? Let’s try to figure this out.
What is the prevalence of childhood hyperactivity problem?
It is one of the most common childhood behavioral disorders. More common in boys. According to medical studies , the prevalence among schoolchildren ranges from 3 to 20%.
What are the causes of childhood hyperactivity?
For a long time, the occurrence of a hyperactive disorder was associated by neurologists and child psychiatrists with minimal damage to the baby’s brain during its intrauterine or early postpartum development due to drug intoxication, birth injuries, chronic diseases and late toxicosis in the mother, as well as injuries and infections received by the child in first years of life. Now scientists have also put forward a theory about a hereditary predisposition to this disorder, which rather complements previous ideas about the occurrence of hyperactivity. The innate tendency to hyperactivity is enhanced under the influence of certain social factors, as practice shows that such behavior is more common in children living in problematic social conditions, experiencing the influence of chronic stress – parental divorce, difficulties in relationships with peers at school, adverse and severe emotional family climate. Hyperactive disorders usually occur in the first 5 years of life.
How does hyperactive behavior manifest itself?
It is difficult for a hyperactive child to sit in one place, he is fussy, moves a lot, turns around all the time, sometimes talks excessively, and can irritate adults and other children with his behavior. He can be sometimes aggressive, causes a lot of conflicts and disputes in the family circle and in an educational institution, usually has poor control over his impulses, and is often impulsive. Poor coordination of movements in such a child may also catch the eye of others. He is clumsy, drops or breaks things, spills milk or tea. It is difficult for such a child to concentrate his attention on one thing, he is easily distracted, often asks many questions to adults, but rarely waits for their own answers, it is difficult for him to control his behavior by an effort of will. Hyperactivity is almost always a child’s excessive impatience in situations involving relative calm, for example, in class at school, during examinations in a hospital.
What happens to hyperactive children as they grow up?
In 30% of these children, hyperactive disorder progresses into adulthood. Hyperactivity in adolescence decreases in many of them, even if other disorders remain, for example, the problem of concentration, however, unfortunately , the risk of developing antisocial behavior, drug addiction, and alcoholism is high.
What methods are used to help hyperactive children?
As a psychologist who has worked for almost 8 years in the healthcare system along with running a private psychological practice, I have come to the conclusion based on my experience that the best approach to helping such children is a comprehensive approach that includes medication, psychological correction, special pedagogical training sessions with the child and his parents.
My collaboration with child psychiatrists and neurologists shows that drug treatment is effective in about 80% of cases. Its action is mostly symptomatic, i.e. focused on eliminating the symptoms of hyperactive behavior and attention disorders and thereby facilitating the intellectual and social development of the child. Drug treatment is subject to several principles: only long-term therapy is effective, ending in adolescence. Usually, if psychiatrists notice that their treatment is effective, they consider it necessary to take trial breaks at regular intervals to find out if the child can do without drugs. They believe that it is desirable to arrange such first breaks during the holidays, when the psychological burden on the child is less than during schooling.
A more positive effect can be achieved through psychological assistance to children and their families, which is carried out in parallel with taking medication. Psychological correction is expedient with an explanation to the child of the reasons for his failures in life, with teaching parents methods of reward and limitation. The reduction of psychological tension in the family and at school, the creation of a favorable environment for the child contribute to a large extent to good results in solving the problems of his hyperactivity.
As a conclusion, I would like to quote the words of the wonderful psychotherapist Violet Oaklander , who had many years of successful experience with this category of children: “Let’s not forget that children, including those who are considered hyperactive, are the same people as everyone else. We all have our own internal rhythms. Some of us do things quickly, others slowly. We move from one task to another in a variety of ways, completing one task in our own way before moving on to another. In working with any group, it is necessary to take into account the diversity of ongoing processes. Children are not robots moving in synchronous rhythm.