ADD/ADHD occurs in approximately 11 percent of all children, according to the CDC. If you are someone who is blessed to have a child or teenager who has challenges with attention and executive function, there are few things you might want to keep in mind. Children with ADD/ADHD are NOT alike, and ADD/ADHD is considered, at this point, a complex neurobiological disorder by the medical community . We say this because of these main medical findings:
Children with ADD/ADHD seem to have reduced cerebral blood flow to some parts in the front of the brain. These areas typically control attention, impulsivity, sensitivity to rewards and punishments, emotions, and memory.
There is underactivity of specific neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically dopamine and norephinephrine. This has been shown on PET scans. There have been several genes linked to ADD/ADHD – two were dopamine receptor genes, along with a dopamine transporter gene. Remember, dopamine plays a major role in regulating attention, concentration, movement, behavior, response to punishment and reward, learning, working memory, analysis of a task, problem solving, and long-term memory.
There is a lag in structural brain maturation of children with ADD/ADHD. ADHD children may more match children 1-3 years younger, with the largest lags in structural maturation seen in older children in one study.
So, if you are parenting or teaching children who have attentional and executive function challenges, understanding these neurobiologic differences many assist you in developing a more cohesive strategy for helping your child.
The other thing to remember is that ADD/ADHD often occurs with other things, including learning disabilities, Tourette’s Syndrome, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and executive functioning difficulties. Sleep disturbances are also extremely common, along with challenges in transitions and changes in routine. There are often multiple challenges to be addressed together in order to lead to success for the child or teen in school and in life.