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2008 Issues

Does My Child Have ADHD?


Most children have trouble sitting still and many don’t finish their schoolwork, so how do you know if your child has ADHD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological condition related to the brain’s chemistry and anatomy and is believed to be a highly genetic disorder. “Currently, the most commonly diagnosed and highly inheritable childhood behavioral disorder, ADHD is prevalent around the globe, among all ethnicities,” states James McGough, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

Diagnosis ADHD

The diagnosis of ADHD is classified into three main subtypes: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and inattentive and hyperactivityimpulsivity combined. The symptoms of each type manifest in persistent patterns of behaviors that occur more frequently and more severely than is typically observed in people at comparable ages and levels of development.

Symptoms may include:

  •  Ignores details; makes careless mistakes
  •  Does not seem to listen when directly addressed
  •  Does not follow through on instructions; fails to finish
  •  Has difficulty organizing tasks
  •  Loses things he or she needs
  •  Is easily distracted/forgetful 
  •  Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort


  •  Fidgets or squirms
  •  Has difficulty with quiet activities
  •  Always on the go
  •  Talks excessively


  •  Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  •  Has difficulty waiting his or her turn
  •  Interrupts or intrudes on others

“The important thing to remember is that all children can be inattentive or over active at times, but when a child is having significantly more trouble than other children his or her age across multiple settings, ADHD should be considered,” suggests Dr. McGough.

The behaviors must appear early in life, before 7 years old, and continue for at least six months. Above all, the behaviors must create a real handicap in at least two areas of a child’s life, such as in school, on the playground, at home or in social settings.


ADHD is very treatable by the correct professional trained in ADHD. Core symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity respond well to medication. Current treatment methods focus on management of symptoms through the following approaches:

  • Stimulant and/or non-stimulant medication – to increase brain activity and maintain inhibitory control of distracting behaviors
  • Psychosocial intervention – parent management, social skills training and academic assistance
  • Combination therapy – medication and psychosocial intervention

Everyone involved needs to understand his or her contribution to a child's successful treatment plan since every child's symptom management should be customized to his or her needs and challenges. Once the disorder is diagnosed, the child and family can begin to receive educational, medical and emotional help.

Resources are available by calling the UCLA ADHD Clinical Evaluation Center at (310) 825-9989 or the UCLA ADHD Clinical Research Programs at (310) 295-7667.

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at the Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, and West Los Angeles. See list of physicians by location or for more information call 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631).

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