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The Future of a Child with ADHD

When parents receive the news that their son or daughter has been diagnosed with ADHD, one of the first things they worry about is how this disorder will affect their child's future.  As it is, ADHD can affect all aspects of a child's life – school performance, friendships, and relations with teachers, parents, and siblings.  However, it's difficult to predict how a child with ADHD will turn out because there are a million possibilities for each individual child.  Some children recover from the disorder completely, while others need to manage some symptoms for the rest of their lives. Other kids continue to be plagued by chronic attention problems and grow up to be dysfunctional adults. How can kids with ADHD have such different outcomes?

To start off, every child experiences a unique combination of problems and issues beyond hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.    Studies show that nearly 60% of children with ADHD have oppositional disorders, 20% experience anxiety, and up to 70% have learning disorders.  Aside from these, experts discovered that children with ADHD tend to experience more problems with sleep, emotions, working memory, allergies, and motor coordination than children without.   In other words, because children with ADHD experience far more than the three basic symptoms, they need a more comprehensive treatment than that offered by stimulant medications. If their treatment is inadequate, these other problems might get worse in the future.

This brings us to a lesser-known fact about ADHD.  Although most of us associate this condition with hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity, these symptoms can actually change with time, especially if the disorder is untreated.   For instance, a child whose dominant symptom is inattention might develop an anxiety disorder in her teens, and be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder as an adult. Or a hyperactive child with oppositional symptoms may receive an antisocial behavior diagnosis in his 20's. In other words, the three basic symptoms can transform into different psychological disorders over time.  Studies also show that kids with ADHD are at greater risk of becoming teen parents, abusing substances, causing car accidents, becoming chronically unemployed, dropping out of school, getting divorced, or attempting suicide.

Of course, these horrible things only happen if ADHD is not given immediate treatment.  If the disorder is treated early on and the child goes through a comprehensive program, he or she can grow up to be a "normal" child.  But it's not enough to just treat the disorder.  Kids with ADHD need special attention because their symptoms can be transformed into very useful skills.  Because their unique psychological condition makes them function differently from the norm, they are also far more creative, resourceful, and enterprising than the average child.  In fact, 30-40% of successful CEOs or entrepreneurs met the diagnostic criteria of ADHD at some point in their lives. 

So don't worry too much about your child just yet.  With enough attention, love, and a treatment that works, your ADHD child will grow up to be a responsible, well-adjusted individual  who will overcome the disabilities imposed by this disorder.