Some parents with ADHD may wonder about the likelihood of their child also developing ADHD, or parents who have one child with ADHD may wonder how likely their other child is to develop ADHD as well. These thoughts are valid, because there is a strong genetic predisposition for ADHD, meaning one diagnosis of ADHD in the family may lead to an appearance in other family members as well.
Despite the role that genetics plays in ADHD, it is still important to receive a proper ADHD diagnosis instead of simply going off an assumption, because the diagnosis plays an essential role in determining which treatment is the most effective.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurological disorder that impacts someone’s ability to focus. In fact, ADHD is one of the most common neuro developmental disorders to affect children. Due to the importance of childhood in developing skills and information used for the rest of their lives, diagnosing and treating ADHD in children is imperative for promoting a good childhood and quality of life.
An ADHD diagnosis is not an end-all-be-all for children, but it can help explain certain behaviours they possess, such as difficulty paying attention and acting impulsively. In addition, receiving an ADHD diagnosis provides guidance on how to address these behaviours, and helps parents understand that these actions are not the child disobeying people in power but instead their brain’s natural tendency.
Do genes play a role in ADHD?
There are multiple causes and risk factors for ADHD, including premature delivery, brain injury, exposure to environmental risks during pregnancy or at a young age, low birth weight, and tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy.
In addition to the above causes and risk factors, research also shows that genetics play an important role in ADHD. Using family, twin, and adoption studies, scientists have been able to conclude that ADHD runs in families, and there is, in fact, a 74% chance of inheriting ADHD from a parent.
Essentially, if you are a sibling or child of someone with ADHD, you are nine times more likely to develop ADHD than the general public. However, there is no other discernable pattern in how ADHD is passed on. In many cases, the genetic changes that are passed on generally mean that someone inherits the risk of developing the condition, not the condition itself.
This means that while a child of someone with ADHD is more likely to develop ADHD, it is not absolute that they will develop it. Still, this genetic connection does allow parents to be more aware of the symptoms of ADHD since they are aware that there is an increased risk of the child having ADHD.
How to diagnose ADHD
In most cases, the symptoms of ADHD are discovered by teachers since the nature of school allows them to more easily notice who is having a hard time paying attention and sitting still.
There are many different symptoms that someone with ADHD may exhibit, and every child with ADHD does not show the same symptoms, making some cases of ADHD harder to recognise.
Some of the common symptoms of ADHD include:
- Talking too much
- Squirming or fidgeting
- Daydreaming excessively
- Struggling with taking turns
- Forgetting or losing things frequently
- Making careless mistakes or taking unnecessary risks
- Having difficulty getting along with others
- Struggling to resist temptation
One of the biggest struggles with diagnosing ADHD is that many other conditions, such as learning disabilities, anxiety, and depression, can have similar symptoms. Because of this overlap, the most effective way to diagnose ADHD, and ensure an accurate diagnosis, is through a neuropsychological assessment.
A neuropsychological assessment consists of a range of tests that assess a wide variety of skills, some of which include:
- Fine motor skills
- Visual-spatial abilities
- Speed of information processing
- Emotional and social functioning
Through a neuropsychological assessment, the provider can determine the strengths and weaknesses of the child, which allows them to diagnose ADHD and what behaviours result from their ADHD.
Treatment for ADHD in children
Medication is the most common ADHD treatment, but it comes with significant limitations, the most obvious of which is that treatment only lasts as long as the medication is taken. This means that if a child with ADHD forgets to take their medicine, which is highly likely, their symptoms will reappear. In addition, if someone ever decides to stop taking their medication entirely, their symptoms will also come back as if they had never taken medicine to begin with.
Despite how effective medicine is for many individuals, not everyone achieves the results they want, and many prefer a more long-term solution that does not require as much trial-and-error or unpleasant side effects.
Non-medication-based ADHD treatments offer a way to retrain the brain, focusing on building skills that the child lacks due to ADHD, which are discovered through the neuropsychological assessment.
One such treatment option is neurofeedback, which uses the results of an EEG scan to observe the areas of the brain that are not active enough or too active. The child’s brain is given thousands of learning opportunities through neurofeedback sessions, promoting restructuring of the brain. Neurofeedback therapy helps reduce the symptoms of ADHD, and in comparison to medication, these results are seen long after the sessions have finished.
There is currently no cure for ADHD in children, but methods such as neurofeedback, which help to retrain the brain, are a close second. There are even options for neurofeedback treatment at home, which makes it easier for children to work on their treatment and fit their sessions into their day without needing to travel to the clinic.
Attention and focus training
Yet another treatment option to address one of the primary conditions of ADHD, lack of focus, is attention & focus training. During these innovative sessions, the child’s working memory is strengthened, increasing their ability to pay attention and remain focused. This treatment serves as a way to improve focus, which then helps reduce several symptoms of ADHD that result from poor working memory.
Executive function therapy
Your executive function is a set of cognitive skills essential for focusing and remembering instructions. In addition, executive function allows you to learn from past events and adjust current emotions and behaviors accordingly.
By improving their executive function, children with ADHD can more easily maintain their attention long enough to complete homework and other school projects. In addition, with increased executive functioning, children with ADHD can recognize when their actions are inappropriate, and they can work on thinking before they act, which leads to less impulsiveness.
There are many potential causes and risk factors for the development of ADHD, but one of the most significant is genetics. Those with a sibling or parent with ADHD are nine times more like to develop it themselves, so those with ADHD in the family should be aware of the symptoms of ADHD to aid in early diagnosis.
Children with untreated ADHD often struggle more in school and in peer relationships since the symptoms of ADHD include a lack of focus and impulsivity. Receiving an ADHD diagnosis is vital for explaining these behaviors and finding a treatment and parental response which takes this neurological condition into account. While there is no cure for ADHD, treatment such as neurofeedback helps to restructure the brain and provide long-term symptom reduction.
Richard Abbey, PhD is a licensed clinical neuropsychologist. He provides neuropsychological evaluations for infants, children, and adults.
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