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ADHD in Children Health Center

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ADHD: Inattentive Type

Children are naturally dreamers. It's not unusual to find them staring out a window, lost in thought about some invented escapade. Daydreaming is how they create and explore new ideas.

Snapping back to reality can be more of a problem for some children than others, though. Kids with attention problems will stare off into space in the middle of class, preferring to stay lost in their own mind rather than return to the classroom. If trouble concentrating and focusing is a constant problem for your child, it could be a sign of ADHD.

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Not sure whether your child is just a dreamer or has inattentive ADHD? Here are some symptoms to look for -- and treatments that can improve focus and concentration.

What Is Inattentive ADHD?

There are three types of ADHD:

  • Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD makes children appear to be in constant motion. Their bodies -- and mouths -- are always going, as if driven by a motor.
  • Inattentive ADHD makes it hard for children to focus and pay attention.
  • Combined ADHD is identified by the presence of both hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive symptoms.

Children with the inattentive type of ADHD also:

  • Shift from task to task without finishing anything
  • Become easily distracted
  • Miss important details
  • Make careless mistakes in homework and tests
  • Get bored quickly
  • Have trouble getting organized, for example losing homework assignments or keeping the bedroom messy and cluttered
  • Don't seem to listen when spoken to
  • Daydream
  • Are slow to understand information
  • Have trouble following instructions

When diagnosing your child with ADHD, the doctor will look for at least six of these symptoms.

A doctor's exam may also include tests to rule out conditions that can mimic inattentive ADHD, including:

  • Hearing or vision problems
  • Learning disability
  • Anxiety or depression

What Causes ADHD?

Scientists aren't sure why some children have ADHD. They believe it has to do, at least in part, with genes. Kids who have a parent, sibling, or other close relative with ADHD are more likely to also have the condition.

Other possible causes of ADHD include:

  • Cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy
  • Lead exposure during the preschool years
  • Brain injuries

Behavioral Therapy for ADHD

Behavioral therapy is one way to address ADHD symptoms. In this approach, parents try to make changes in their child's behavior by giving rewards or withholding privileges.

The therapy can be done alone or along with medications.

Some techniques include:

  • Positive reinforcement
  • Time-outs
  • Withholding privileges or withdrawing rewards in response to unwanted behavior
  • Combination of withholding privileges and positive reinforcement

Counselors, parents, and teachers can often work together to help the child focus and get organized.

Here are some helpful tactics you can try:

To-do lists. Create to-do lists of homework and household chores.

"Bite-size" projects. Break down projects and requests into small tasks. Instead of saying, "Do your homework," you might say, "Finish your math sheet. Then read one chapter of your English book. Finally, write one paragraph describing what you read."

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