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A Helping Hand: ADHD in Siblings

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Health in the family is always of utmost importance. Having a sibling with ADHD can become quite overwhelming to some who are unprepared for the changes that come after the diagnosis. It is easy to feel lost and helpless when someone so close to you is diagnosed with a condition that you know nothing about, which is why it is important to learn as much as you can so you can be a helping hand.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to focus, control over their impulses or causes them to be overly active. Usually diagnosed at an early age, this disorder can be outgrown by most who have it but in some cases, it can stay present all the way through to adulthood. It is genetically passed down to children from their parents and currently, there is no catchall cure for ADHD, only various therapies that can help those who suffer from it manage and improve on their symptoms.

There are three common types of ADHD. First, the inattentive type where the sufferer is easily distracted and has trouble following instructions and keeping their attention on a single thing. The second type is hyperactive-impulsive where sufferers will be very fidgety and have difficulty controlling their impulses. The third type is a blend of the two. As the most common type of ADHD, the sufferer’s symptoms often fluctuate between the two extremes. The individuals who suffer from this will have moments when they can be calm and focused but still be unable to process information like neurotypical individuals.

When it comes to gender, while the diagnosis itself remains the same, the symptoms of ADHD can vary between boys and girls and will manifest themselves differently. Girls with ADHD tend to display the internalized aspects of the disorder, showing symptoms such as anxiety, low self-esteem, trouble focusing and being withdrawn. Boys, on the other hand, generally display more obvious and external symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity, trouble sitting still, physical aggression and lack of impulse control. However, no symptoms are mutually exclusive to either gender. Boys can develop anxiety and low self-esteem all the same as girls can suffer from bad impulse control and hyperactivity.

Statistically, there are more boys with ADHD than girls in Malaysia. 8-10% of boys are diagnosed with ADHD while only 4% of girls get the same diagnosis, both before the ages of 12. This, however, is not an exact representation of the number of individuals with ADHD. It is generally more difficult to identify the symptoms in girls than it is with boys due to the internalized nature of its manifestations. As a result, there is no precise statistic on how much of the population can be diagnosed with this disorder. Since its severity varies from person to person, ADHD can sometimes go undiagnosed for a person’s entire life if their parents did not know what symptoms to look out for during their infancy. Symptoms can sometimes be written off as the sufferer just being ‘lazy’ or them lacking maturity and told that they will outgrow them eventually. This makes it difficult to understand how common ADHD really is on a global scale.

Now that your sibling has been officially diagnosed with ADHD, what is going to change? As their sibling, there will be some lifestyle changes that have to be made in order to make dealing with the condition easier on them. First, you must learn to communicate your emotions and feelings clearly. People with ADHD tend to have a remarkably high degree of emotional intelligence even at a young age. So now, if your sibling does something that upsets you, instead of responding with anger you should respond with a calm conversation on why their actions upset you. Respond calmly to them and give them a thorough explanation to provide them with context so they can understand and learn.

Children with ADHD require a lot of extra attention. It is important not to make them feel alienated and alone. A good way to ensure that does not happen is to understand that your parents will need to put in more time for them, which could mean that they have less time with you. There will be times when you may feel jealous that they have more time dedicated to them, but you must remember that this is when they need to be taught certain things that come to us naturally.

There are many things to be learned when you have someone with ADHD in your life. Things will get challenging sometimes. Learning skills like patience, empathy and being clear about your intent and feelings is crucial to ensuring the best possible environment for personal growth on all sides. The most important thing to remember is that this is something they are going through as well. Having to live with ADHD is a challenge of its own and it can easily get very overwhelming for those who have it.

By Mohamed Areslan Bensaid


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