Myth: ADHD only exists in childhood…
There is a common misperception that ADHD is only a “childhood” disorder. ADHD can be diagnosed in children as young as four years old and is typically diagnosed in childhood. A person usually develops ADHD in this younger age and parents and teachers look out for children who exhibit the core three symptoms: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
The six-year-old who cannot sit still and constantly fidgets, or the little girl who stares out the window for hours on end or the child who cannot help but knock down the toy towers even when told not to. In kindergarten and elementary school, if children are suspected of having ADHD, they are evaluated by a pediatrician so they can receive the proper therapy and medication.
As the child gets older, he or she is likely to outgrow ADHD, but this is not always the case. Many teenagers struggle with ADHD as they go through life changes: going to high school, peer pressure and learning to drive. Also, children who were never diagnosed with ADHD can start to experience debilitating symptoms as life stressors begin to increase.
ADHD in Teenagers
When a teenager experiences ADHD, it presents differently than it did in childhood. In children, the core symptom to look out for is hyperactivity, but as children mature, they are less likely to be fidgeting and jumping out of their chairs.
Teenagers with ADHD struggle with:
- School performance: As assignments become more demanding, challenges with executive functioning become more apparent. The inability to focus and stay on task can cause a teenager to perform poorly on tests and fall behind in work.
- Long-term consequences: Understanding to prioritize working on a school project rather than watching T.V is more difficult for teenagers with ADHD, who are wired to seek out immediate gratification.
- Social Challenges: Teenagers with ADHD are likely to be victims of bullying or be the bully themselves. They are more likely to be impulsive and act on anger and emotion, rather than process the feelings before speaking.
- Risky behavior: Teenagers with ADHD, struggling with impulsivity, are more likely to be tempted by drugs, smoking, and alcohol.
Tips for Parents of Teenagers with ADHD
- Academic Support: ADHD is co-morbid with learning disabilities and with extra help in school, a teenager can succeed academically. By providing extra time, tutoring or studying tips, a teenager with ADHD can improve test scores and confidence in their academic abilities. It is not someone with ADHD’s fault when he or she finds focusing and concentrating more difficult than other people without ADHD. ADHD is a brain-based disorder but cognitive strategies and extra support can help mitigate symptoms.
- Independence: During teenage years, it is normal for an individual to want to have his or her privacy and freedom to make decisions. It is also normal for parents to want to be involved in their teenager’s life (especially if he or she has ADHD). Parents need to find a balance between providing the structure and support a teenager needs while also allowing for independence. Many teenagers with ADHD report having conflicts with their parents and this can be due to the parents’ desire to help their teenager with school and other experiences. Providing help is one thing but treating your teenager like a child is another thing.
- Extracurricular Activites: Encouraging a teenager with ADHD to sign up for after-school clubs or teams can be extremely beneficial. Extracurriculars provide structure and organization to schedules and also provide a way to meet and interact with other peers.
- Driving Lesson: Teenagers with ADHD are more likely to struggle with driving due to their inattention and impulsivity. Having extra driving lessons can help a teenager with ADHD feel more confident behind the wheel.