TOPEKA, Kan. - Nearly from the time he was born, Cora Burns' son Willy was on the move - and losing focus.
Cora says, as a child, Willy could be playing and suddenly forget what he was doing or walking a cup into the kitchen and veer off halfway there, forgetting where he was headed.
It wasn't until he started school, though, that Cora says she fully realized something was wrong. She says, in first grade, he wasn't reading and couldn't write his name.
Willy was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the family started receiving help from child psychiatrists.
Stormont-Vail West child psychiatrist Dr. Shakila Tanjim says the ADHD symptoms of making careless mistakes, inability to focus, fidgeting and becoming disruptive may sound common, but there's a difference in kids with ADHD. She says, in those kids, the symptoms are severe and impair their ability to perform well in two settings, usually school and home. It also impacts their social relationships in those settings. In addition, to be diagnosed, the symptoms continue for more than six months and, usually, appear before the age of seven.
If parents suspect ADHD, a psychiatrist will evaluate the child's actions at school and at home. Treatment starts with behavioral interventions like timeouts and positive reinforcement, helping the child understand what appropriate behavior is and how it can be rewarded.
Medication may also be used, since, Dr. Tanjim says, ADHD often stems from problems with dopamine receptors in the brain.
Cora says she resisted medication at first, but now, a combination of medication and therapy has Willy, at age 12, on the right track. She says he's now able, in some situations, to take a step back, re-evaluate his behavior and correct it.
She also urges other parents not to delay if they suspect their child has this challenge. She says getting them into a doctor, getting a diagnosis, and getting them help is vital to making sure they don't fall behind.
An ADHD Diagnostic Criteria Form is available on Stormont-Vail's website. Parents who suspect their child has ADHD may talk to their pediatrician or schedule an evaluation with a child psychiatrist. The number at Stormont-Vail West is 785-270-4630.