How to identify ADHD in my child?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder that usually manifests in children under the age of 12 and could persist into adulthood. Children with ADHD mostly will show signs of inattentiveness, hyperactivity or even impulsiveness and even a combination of the three for over at least 6 months to be confirmed to have ADHD.

In the United States, 5% of children have ADHD and approximately 11% of children ages 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD with increasing percentage each year. A systematic review and meta-analysis done by Rae Thomas and colleagues came up with a pooled prevalence estimate of 7.2% of the worlds child population of having ADHD. In another meta-analysis published in January 2017 showed a pooled prevalence of 6.26% of in children and adolescents under 18 years old in China with ADHD. The statistics should be a cause for concern as to what can be done further to alleviate the causes of ADHD incidence.

Causes of ADHD (Genetic and Environmental)

Both genetic and environmental factors play different roles in causing ADHD. Various studies have shown that specific genes and family history contribute to the inheritance of ADHD. Genetic susceptibility of ADHD is linked to multiple genes, some of these genes include; catecholaminergic genes like DRD4 gene that codes for dopamine D4 receptor. In a recent study of an Iranian population, DRD4 gene polymorphisms in exon 3 showed an association between 4R(repetition) alleles of DRD4 and ADHD in children ages 6 to 14.

There are also environmental risk factors to consider when discussing the causes of ADHD. Environmental factors have to be highlighted as they can be prevented or could even help reduce the risk of a child having ADHD. It was found in a research by Alina Rodriguez and Gunilla Bohlin that both maternal smoking and stress during pregnancy are separately related to ADHD symptoms, especially in boys. Another study using the children-of-twins design on a large Australian twin cohort concluded that maternal alcohol use would cause a direct risk to ADHD in their children. Some other environmental risk factors for ADHD are illustrated in the table below.

Environmental risk factors of ADHD
Maternal Factors during pregnancy
  • Smoking (Active or Passive)
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Stress and anxiety
Other environmental factors
  • Low birth weight and prematurity
  • Pollutants, toxins, and diet
  • Psychosocial adversity

How do I know if my child has ADHD?

3 main signs of ADHD are inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Guidelines used by healthcare professionals are provided by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM – 5). These guidelines help in the diagnosis of ADHD in children under 16 years old. These criteria include a list of signs and symptoms for each of these categories; inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. People diagnosed with ADHD would show six or more symptoms in the list are met for children under 16 years or five or more symptoms met for those 17 and older for a period of 6 months. But of course, if you observe any unusual behavior from your child that could be related to ADHD please consult a healthcare professional for advice on the diagnosis.

Care and treatments for ADHD children

There is no one drug or therapy that can cure ADHD, a holistic approach that includes environmental and pharmaceutical factors could help a child in effectively overcoming ADHD.

Some medications that are used for ADHD treatments are methylphenidate, dexamfetamine, lisdexamfetamine, atomoxetine, and guanfacine. These medications would help to ease any symptoms of ADHD as they are stimulants that temporarily alters the brain chemistry to help control impulsive behavior or hyperactivity. As with any form of pharmaceutical drugs they come with some side effects, common side effects of the medications include nausea, the small increase in blood pressure and heart rate, or headaches. Remember to always consult your doctor on the right dosage for your child so as to prevent any of these adverse side effects.

Therapy for the child should also complement the medications. This would include behavior therapy to manage the child’s behavior towards different situations. Training and educating parents on the care and understanding of their child’s condition is also another important form of treatment. As this would give parents the knowledge of how to foster good behavior in their child and thus provided a less stressful environment at home for the child to heal.


    • Faraone, S. V., Mick, E. (2010). Molecular Genetics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33(1), 159–180.
    • KNOPIK, V., HEATH, A., JACOB, T., SLUTSKE, W., BUCHOLZ, K., MADDEN, P., MARTIN, N. (2006). Maternal alcohol use disorder and offspring ADHD: Disentangling genetic and environmental effects using a children-of-twins design. Psychological Medicine, 36(10), 1461-1471.

Rodriguez, A. and Bohlin, G. (2005), Are maternal smoking and stress during pregnancy related to ADHD symptoms in children?. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46: 246–254.

  • Tabatabaei, S. M., Amiri, S., Faghfouri, S., Noorazar, S. G., AbdollahiFakhim, S., Fakhari, A. (2017). DRD4 Gene Polymorphisms as a Risk Factor for Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Iranian Population. International Scholarly Research Notices, 2017, 2494537.
  • Thapar, A., Cooper, M., Jefferies, R., Stergiakouli, E. (2012). What causes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Archives of Disease in Childhood, 97(3), 260–265.