Your questions answered about ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Everyone is unique therefore ADHD will present in different ways for different people, but in my experience children and adults may have difficulty in concentrating, impulsive decision making, may appear forgetful, might be easily distracted, lose focus and find organisation difficult.

I must stress that this will be different for different people, there’s certainly no one set of ‘tick boxes’ for ADHD as everyone is unique. Sometimes people with ADHD also have difficulties with sleep too.

When do people get diagnosed?

Children with ADHD often get a diagnosis before they are seven. But this varies and it’s not unusual for people to be diagnosed later on in childhood or even when they are an adult.

I must add that one reason children may be diagnosed later in childhood is due to the extremely long waiting times for assessments. Often parents and schools are picking up that it could be ADHD but are then having to wait a very long time for an official diagnosis. And the waiting time is not only a postcode lottery but in my opinion has created a two tier system with families who can afford to go private being able to get a diagnosis quicker.

Can Women and Girls have ADHD?

Yes! But women and girls with ADHD in my experience are even less likely to get their diagnosis at school age than boys.

One reason for this is that parents and teachers might find it easier to identify ADHD in boys because it may be more “obvious,” Boys often – not always – tick the boxes of traditional presentation of ADHD, such as having more energy.

Whereas ADHD in girls, although again I must stress certainly not always, can present itself with inattentiveness – which may be easier to miss.

For more information on diagnosis of ADHD in girls have a read of this article I contributed to in the Metro here

What is masking?

Adults and children with ADHD may also mask their symptoms, either consciously or subconsciously. Masking is where they in a sense ‘hide’ their symptoms perhaps due to social pressures or anxiety. Some children may appear to be absolutely ‘fine’ in school but then at home parents may find their children are struggling with concentration, focus, sleep, restlessness etc. this can be really hard for parents and the children as school may find it hard to believe their concerns about ADHD if they aren’t noticing the same things at school.

Parents may, wrongly, feel it’s their fault that child is behaving differently at home. In reality though, they are struggling in school too. But it’s really important to make sure you explain to school that you think they may be masking. If a child is masking their ADHD at school it may cause increased anxiety and stress and possibly lead to depression as it can be extremely exhausting to mask your true self all day at school. It also means their ADHD is less likely to be identified- this could result in them not being able to access the support they need in school for their ADHD when they need it.

What do you do if you think your child may have ADHD?

If you think your child may have ADHD the best thing to do is to speak to your child’s teacher and the school Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator (SENDCo) who can then help refer and organise the assessment. You can also speak to your child’s GP.

What about adults?

As an adult you would need to speak to your GP about the reasons you think you may have ADHD so they can discuss it with you and refer you for the formal assessment. As the waiting lists for assessments in the UK are very long, some people who are in a position to do so, may choose to get a private ADHD assessment instead.

Why are more adults getting diagnosed?

It’s certainly not ‘new’, we have to remember that there will have always been people with ADHD it’s just that they weren’t always diagnosed.

I think perhaps people are just more aware of ADHD now (which is a good thing!) and feel more confident in speaking to their child’s school or their GP about it. Thanks to technology, it’s also a lot easier now to find out about ADHD yourself than it would have been say 20/ 30 years ago.

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