Expert Advice: ADHD and Adoption

What causes ADHD?

Although its cause has not been clearly established, we know that ADHD can be inherited. Forty percent of children with ADHD will have a parent with ADHD -- usually the father. Although ADHD appears to have a genetic basis, other factors influence who will actually develop symptoms and who won't. Even among pairs of genetically identical twins, one twin may have ADHD and the other not. The attention center in the brain appears to be the most vulnerable or sensitive psychological function. Thus a range of medical problems can result in an impaired attention span without any other apparent difficulties. Prenatal drug or alcohol exposure, prematurity, lead poisoning, and other similar conditions can put a child at risk for ADHD.

ADHD is most typically diagnosed in the early grade-school years, and teachers are often the first to identify the child's difficulties. Inattention may be noted if the child daydreams frequently or has trouble completing tasks. Impulsivity often leads to calling out in class or having difficulty waiting their turn in games or lines. Hyperactivity in children will likely be exhibited by restlessness, fidgetiness, and getting out of their seat at inappropriate times. Although boys are more likely to be identified as having ADHD with hyperactivity, girls are more likely to be identified as having the "inattentive type" of ADD.

Diagnosis of ADHD requires a careful evaluation by a physician or psychologist. A thorough diagnostic assessment is needed, because children with ADHD often have additional developmental problems, such as learning disabilities, auditory processing difficulties, or a mood disorder. Also, these same conditions can actually mimic or be confused for ADHD, yet each would require a different approach to treatment.

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