ADHD, or attention-deficit, hyperactivity disorder, used to be known simply as hyperactivity. With its wider definition, it now catches children who fall within a wide spectrum that ranges from naughtiness right through to a genuine, and serious, problem that dramatically affects behaviour and an ability to learn and concentrate.
As such, far too many children are being labelled as 'ADHD'. Up to 10 per cent of children in the United States have been diagnosed as ADHD, while the figure is around 2 per cent in the UK. It tends to affect more boys than girls.
Although a diagnosis of ADHD may eventually involve doctors, social workers and psychiatrists, the process begins with the parent, who may see any behavioural or learning problem as ADHD. It can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy and even though a range of professionals does get involved, the diagnosis is invariably a subjective one. There is no agreed, objective measure to determine genuine cases of ADHD.
The tell-tale signs in the child include impulsiveness, restlessness, inattention and an inability to concentrate, or an ability to adapt socially, so anti-social behaviour, a reluctance to look someone in the eye, and rebelliousness may all suggest an ADHD child. These behaviour patterns may suggest another problem, such as impaired hearing, or a dietary reaction. They may also be the behaviour of a perfectly normal child who is growing and changing, too.