This Mum Thought Her Son Had ADHD, How Wrong She Was!
Having a child diagnosed with ADHD is every parent's biggest fear. However, this mum's experience shows it can be something else entirely!
Amanda Cassidy was worried. Her 5-year-old son was having a difficult time at school. He was fidgety, had trouble sitting at one place, and often acted out impulsively. Even though these things are quite normally seen at that age, she was worried about one condition in particular – ADHD.
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
According to the NHS, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity/hyperkinetic Disorder is ‘a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness’. The exact cause of ADHD is not known. However, the diagnosis is based on the behavioural aspect of the child. Most of the children get diagnosed at school-going age, around 6 years of age.
It is seen mostly in babies who are born prematurely, with low birth weight. It is also seen in alcohol, drug, and tobacco abuse in pregnancy. That said, a diagnosis of ADHD should not reflect poorly on the mother, as it is also seen in the most cared-for pregnancies.
Amanda’s son did not have ADHD
Amanda took her child to see a therapist. However, the therapist declared that her son did not have ADHD. Instead, he had something that shocked Amanda completely!
Her son had retained some of his primitive reflexes. A primitive reflex is something you are born with or acquire in the first few weeks after birth. These reflexes are hardwired in the brain, and a lack of them is a cause of concern for parents and paediatricians alike. The role of these reflexes is both protective and developmental. After a certain age, these reflexes go away as their function is no longer needed.
However, in a few children, these reflexes are retained in young children beyond that age. This leads to a host of developmental delays in the milestones, especially when it comes to social interactions.
How is it different from ADHD?
ADHD is not a disease. There is no pathogen involved, and so, diagnosis of ADHD is hugely based on the behavioural assessment of the child. It is true that in many cases of ADHD, the primitive reflexes are retained. However, the converse is not true. Retention of primitive reflexes is not diagnostic of ADHD.
In contrast, the retention of reflexes can be tested easily. The doctor has to demonstrate the reflex in the young child. And because of this, the diagnosis will be more definitive and the doctor can chart a treatment plan.
I think my child has ADHD
Children display a range of social skills. A few are outgoing and mix with everybody. A few others prefer to stay alone, are fidgety, and are quite impulsive. The spectrum of activity and social interaction makes it difficult for a parent to assess if the child needs help.
However, if your child lacks age-appropriate social interaction skills, just visit your doctor. A rule of thumb is, if your child does not show signs of affection, an interest in his surroundings, needs you around all the time, lacks an ability to express himself and ends up throwing a tantrum (from 2-5 years), you should have a chat with your doctor. These are not symptoms of ADHD. They will help your doctor assess your child completely, and arrive at the right diagnosis.
However, there are 3 red flags that the doctor will use to rule out ADD/ADHD in your child.
- Does he have mood swings? If your child is the class clown one day and a grumpy child the other, it might not be ADD/ADHD.
- Persistence of symptoms. Does your child have good and bad days? If your child is a perfect child on some days, it is not ADD/ADHD.
- Late appearance of symptoms. If your child used to be a perfect child in the kindergarten but has started showing symptoms only after the age of 10, it probably is not ADD/ADHD.
If your child displays these, you should still see a doctor. It is important to have a correct and a timely diagnosis for his better future.