Hyperactivity, medically termed attention deficit hyperactive disorder, can affect children, adolescents, and even some adults. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and may include problems with language, memory, and motor skills. Although the hyperactive child is often of normal or above-average intelligence, the condition is characterized by learning and behavioral problems. Teachers and parents of a hyperactive child must cope with the child's short attention span, impulsiveness, emotional instability, and uncontrollable overactivity.
Hyperactive behavior may be related to a vision or hearing loss, a communication disorder such as an inability to properly process incoming symbols and ideas, emotional stress, seizures, or sleep disorders. It can also be related to cerebral palsy, lead poisoning, prenatal alcohol or drug abuse, a reaction to certain medicines or foods, and birth complications such as oxygen deprivation or injury at birth. These problems must be ruled out as the cause of the behavior before treating a child for hyperactivity.
True hyperactive behavior interferes with a child's home, school, and social life. Hyperactive children have trouble paying attention and learning. Because they are unable to screen out stimuli, they are very easily distracted. These children may talk a lot, too loudly, and at inappropriate times. Hyperactive children are in constant motion, always into something, and unable to sit still. They are impulsive. They don't stop to look or listen. Because of their amazing and seemingly endless energy, curiosity, and need to explore, they are prone to hurt themselves and to break and damage things. Hyperactive children have a low tolerance for frustration. They argue with parents, teachers, adults, and friends. They have temper tantrums and rapid mood swings. These children also tend to cling. They need lots of attention and reassurance. It is important for parents to realize that hyperactive children understand rules, instructions, and social expectations. The problem is that they have a difficult time following them. These behaviors are accidental, not intentional.
For a hyperactive child and his family, a trip to an amusement park or a supermarket can be a disaster. There is simply too much going on-too much simultaneous input. Because of his inability to focus and the constant bombardment of stimuli, a hyperactive child can go into overload.
A hyperactive child may carry a heavy burden. Despite the learning-disabled label, this child is usually very intelligent. He knows that certain behaviors are not acceptable. But despite wanting to please, and to be polite and restrained, the hyperactive child just isn't able to maintain control. He can become frustrated, dismayed, and ashamed. He knows that the "smarts" are there, but he isn't able to slow his nervous system down long enough to harness the brain power necessary to complete an assignment.
The hyperactive child often feels separated and apart from peers, but doesn't understand why he is so different. He is bewildered by his own incapacities. Without the ability to complete normal childhood tasks in school, in the schoolyard, or in the home, the hyperactive child may suffer from stress, sadness, and low self-esteem.
A specialist in child behavior can help you distinguish between a normally active, energetic child and one who is truly hyperactive. Children, even toddlers, can run and play and create a happy commotion for hours without napping, sleeping, or looking the slightest bit tired. To ensure that a truly hyperactive child is properly treated-and to avoid inappropriate treatment of a normally active child-it is important that your child be accurately diagnosed.