ADHD - can your child grow out of it?

Children with ADHD may eventually grow out of the condition, according to new research. The study suggests that the brains of children and teenagers with ADHD are not actually different to other children, but that they develop more slowly. This means they may eventually catch up

New research from America appears to show that the brains of children suffering from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) develop like other children, but with a delay of up to three years. The delays are most pronounced in the regions of the brain most important for controlling thought, attention and planning – something which won’t surprise parents of children with the disorder.

Dr Philip Shaw, whose study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, looked at the brains of 223 children and teenagers with ADHD, and the same number of those without it. He discovered that the cortex in the brain of a child with ADHD reached its peak of thickness on average three years later. This suggests that children may actually grow out of ADHD.

"The sequence in which different parts of the brain matured in the kids with ADHD was exactly the same as in healthy kids. It's just that everything was delayed by a couple of years," said Dr Shaw.

But he added that his study did not suggest that there was a simple answer to ADHD.

What I wouldn't take away from this study is: 'Just sit and wait three years and your kid will be OK.’ We know ADHD is a real problem for children and their families and the schools, and it does need treatment.

Around 500,000 children in the UK are thought to be suffering from ADHD, and this new study came hot on the heels of another one. It suggested that drugs such as Ritalin can be no better than therapy when it comes to treating the disorder.

The findings, which were released by the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD (which also took place in the US), suggested that long-term use of the drugs could stunt children’s growth, and that the benefits of using them were not as clear-cut as previously thought.

“We had thought that children medicated longer would have better outcomes,” said the report’s co-author, Professor William Pelham of the University of Buffalo. “That didn't happen to be the case. There's no indication that medication's better than nothing in the long run."

Related links

ADHD and behaviour - tips on how to discipline your child: If your child has ADHD, coping with his behaviour can wear you out. But even though he may act up, he still needs the security of limits. So how do you discipline him without losing your mind?

Your ADHD child - our top tips for getting the best out of him: Many parents whose children have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) find themselves trapped in a loop of negativity, constantly telling their kids off. But it is possible to be positive…

Special Needs and Your Relationship: For a relationship that’s fragile or unstable, a child with a disability can be the last straw. If you and your partner are parenting a child with special needs, here are some suggestions to help your relationship survive the challenges.

Find out more

Mind have information  and downloadable leaflets about ADHD on its website.

Parent Magic: Find out about Dr Thomas Phelan’s renowned 1-2-3 Magic parenting solution to discipline and how it can help you and your child overcome the discipline difficulties of ADHD.

1-2-3 Magic: by Thomas W Phelan, PhD. Dr Thomas Phelan explains why too much talking and too much emotion set your child up for behaviour problems and offers a simple system that stops your child acting up and encourages him to behave.

Parenting Children With ADHD: 10 lessons that medicine cannot teach: by Vincent J Monastra, PhD. Straightforward solutions to address basic problems, including the importance of a lesson plan, how to teach children to manage their anger, why nutrition is critical and why yelling rarely solves anything.

 The Gift of ADHD: How to transform your child's problems into strengths: by Lara Honos-Webb, PhD. Looks at the emotional strengths that accompany ADHD, including emotional sensitivity toward others, passion and exuberance, unusual problem-solving skills and a love of nature, to help you avoid negative labels and see your ADHD child in a more postive light.

Learning to Slow Down and Pay Attention: by Kathleen G Nadeau. Cartoons, activities and simple help explain to your child what he’s going through, reassure him he’s not alone and show him ways to help himself.

The Putting the Brakes On Activity Book for Young People with ADHD:  by Patricia Quinn, Judith Stern and Neil Russell. It's a handy resource for helping kids understand ADHD and teaching them study techniques that will help them to focus better.

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