Strengths & Weaknesses of Children With ADHD
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder face several challenges in nearly every facet of life. ADHD is much more than not being able to sit still or pay attention in class. Children with ADHD are often bullied and misunderstood by their teachers, who think they don’t want to behave. If not treated, ADHD can lead to social isolation and other mental health issues later in life. However, having ADHD has some positive attributes, and knowing what they are and how to build on them can help children flourish.
Symptoms of ADHD
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children with ADHD are “always in motion” -- they are fidgety and squirmy and feel restless and need to always be moving 1. They tend to be impulsive and say words at inappropriate times without giving those words much thought. They might have a hard time waiting their turn and display their emotions without restraint. Children suffering from ADHD are inattentive and bore easily 1. School is a particular challenge for kids with the disorder because they have difficulty remembering assignments and staying organized, and they are easily distracted. Some children might only be inattentive, appearing to pay attention and work hard in class, but beneath the surface they are not focusing on what they are doing.
Mental Health and Developmental Struggles
The authors of a study published in February in the journal "Pediatrics" culled data from 62,000 children between the ages of 6 and 17 from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. It found that children with ADHD are more likely to struggle with mental health and other developmental disorders. Sixty-seven percent of the children studied with ADHD also had at least one other mental health disorder or neurodevelopmental disorder; 18 percent had at least three other disorders 1. They also found that children with ADHD were more prone to anxiety and speech problems and were more likely to be held back a grade in school.
Reasons for Hope
Even though children with ADHD face many obstacles and have a great deal to overcome, parents should have hope because there are aspects of the disorder that are positive and should be encouraged as much as possible 1. Children with ADHD are often good at math, are good readers, have artistic talent, good memories, are kind to others, are good with animals and are helpful. According to Spark.org, they have good gross motor skills and are good with computers. According to Smart Kids With Learning Disabilities, a nonprofit ADHD organization, these children are deep thinkers who seek out meaning, relevance and understanding in relationships.
Encouraging a Child with ADHD's Strengths
Because the intelligence of an ADHD child is typically average or above-average, it is important for parents and teachers to nurture their intellectual abilities and use them as an encouragement tool, according to TheAffinityCenter.com 1. It is also helpful to provide children with activities that allow them to work “outside of the box” to solve problems and create. That extra energy that can be so frustrating for parents and teachers can also be a gift, if they learn to find ways to harness it, such as a teacher allowing the student to run notes to the office. Additionally, ensuring a child gets regular positive reinforcement for the good things he does will go a long way toward improving his self-esteem, and will make school time a far more enjoyable experience.
- Signs & Symptoms of ADHD
- Adler, L, Spencer, T. et al. Best practices in adult ADHD: Epidemiology, impairments, and differential diagnosis. CNS Spectr . 2008;13(S12):18-18. doi:10.1017/S1092852900003151
- Bruchmüller K, Margraf J, Schneider S. Is ADHD diagnosed in accord with diagnostic criteria? Overdiagnosis and influence of client gender on diagnosis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 80(1):128-138. doi:10.1037/a0026582
- Skogli EW, Teicher MH, Andersen PN, Hovik KT, Øie M. ADHD in girls and boys – gender differences in co-existing symptoms and executive function measures. BMC Psychiatry. 2013;13(1). doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-298
- Fresson M, Meulemans T, Dardenne B, Geurten M. Overdiagnosis of ADHD in boys: Stereotype impact on neuropsychological assessment. Applied Neuropsychology: Child. 2019;8(3):231-245. doi:10.1080/21622965.2018.1430576
- Rucklidge JJ. Gender differences in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 2010;33(2):357-373. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2010.01.006.
- Visser SN, Danielson ML, Bitsko RH, et al. Trends in the parent-report of health care provider-diagnosed and medicated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: United States, 2003-2011. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014;53(1):34-46.e2. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2013.09.001
- Russell AE, Ford T, Russell G. Socioeconomic associations with ADHD: Findings from a mediation analysis. PLoS ONE. 10(6):e0128248. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128248
- Paris J, Bhat V, Thombs B. Is adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder being overdiagnosed?. Can J Psychiatry. 2015;60(7):324-8. doi:10.1177/070674371506000705
- Coates J, Taylor JA, Sayal K. Parenting interventions for ADHD. J Atten Disord. 2015;19(10):831-843. doi:10.1177/1087054714535952
- Hansson Halleröd SL, Anckarsäter H, Råstam M, Hansson Scherman M. Experienced consequences of being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult – a qualitative study. BMC Psychiatry. 2015;15(1). doi:10.1186/s12888-015-0410-4
- Holbrook JR, Cuffe SP, Cai B, et al. Persistence of parent-reported ADHD symptoms from childhood through adolescence in a community sample. J Atten Disord. 2016;20(1):11-20. doi:10.1177/1087054714539997
- Miller DJ, Derefinko KJ, Lynam DR, Milich R, Fillmore MT. Impulsivity and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder: Subtype classification using the UPPS impulsive behavior scale. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2010;32(3):323-332. doi:10.1007/s10862-009-9155-z
- Faraone SV, Biederman J, Mick E. The age-dependent decline of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analysis of follow-up studies. Psychol Med. 2006;36(2):159-165. doi:10.1017/S003329170500471X
- Turgay A, Goodman DW, Asherson P, et al. Lifespan persistence of ADHD. J Clin Psychiatry. 2012;73(02):192-201. doi:10.4088/JCP.10m06628
- Torrente F, Lischinsky A, Torralva T, López P, Roca M, Manes F. Not always hyperactive?: Elevated apathy scores in adolescents and adults with ADHD. J Atten Disord. 2011;15(7):545-556. doi:10.1177/1087054709359887
- Konrad K, Eickhoff SB. Is the ADHD brain wired differently? A review on structural and functional connectivity in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Hum Brain Mapp. 2010;31(6):904-916. doi:10.1002/hbm.21058
- Young S, Sedgwick O. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and substance misuse: an evaluation of causal hypotheses and treatment considerations. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. 2015;15(9):1005-1014. doi:10.1586/14737175.2015.1059756
- American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5 Task Force. Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, DSM-5. Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, US: American Psychiatric Association Publishing; 2013. doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
- Asherson P, Akehurst R, Kooij JJS, et al. Under diagnosis of adult ADHD. J Atten Disord. 2012;16(5_suppl):20S-38S. doi:10.1177/1087054714535952
- Bihlar Muld B, Jokinen J, Bölte S, Hirvikoski T. Long-term outcomes of pharmacologically treated versus non-treated adults with ADHD and substance use disorder: A naturalistic study. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2015;51:82-90. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2014.11.005
- Brodersen J, Schwartz LM, Heneghan C, O’Sullivan JW, Aronson JK, Woloshin S. Overdiagnosis: What it is and what it isn’t. BMJ EBM. 2018;23(1):1-3. doi:10.1136/ebmed-2017-110886
- Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. National Outcome Measure 17.4: Percent of Children, Ages 3 through 17, Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD.; 2019). childhealthdata.org
- Coker TR, Elliott MN, Toomey SL, et al. Racial and ethnic disparities in ADHD diagnosis and treatment. PEDIATRICS. 2016;138(3):e20160407-e20160407. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-0407
- Derks EM, Hudziak JJ, Boomsma DI. Why more boys than girls with ADHD receive treatment: A study of dutch twins. Twin Res Hum Genet. 2007;10(5):765-770. doi:10.1375/twin.10.5.765
- Fayyad J, Sampson NA, Hwang I, et al. The descriptive epidemiology of DSM-IV Adult ADHD in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. ADHD Atten Def Hyp Disord. 2017;9(1):47-65. doi:10.1007/s12402-016-0208-3
- Lui JHL, Johnston C, Lee CM, Lee-Flynn SC. Parental ADHD symptoms and self-reports of positive parenting. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 81(6):988-998. doi:10.1037/a0033490
- MANOS MJ, GIULIANO K, GEYER E. ADHD: Overdiagnosed and overtreated, or misdiagnosed and mistreated? Cleve Clin J Med. 2017;84(11):873-880. doi:10.3949/ccjm.84a.15051
- Sciutto MJ, Eisenberg M. Evaluating the evidence for and against the overdiagnosis of ADHD. J Atten Disord. 2007;11(2):106-113. doi:10.1177/1087054707300094
- Wilens TE, Morrison NR. The intersection of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and substance abuse. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2011;24(4):280-285. doi:10.1097/YCO.0b013e328345c956
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images