Is it ADHD or something else?

May 5, 2008 10:39:14 AM PDT
About two million kids in the United States have ADHD -- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Parents and teachers have become more aware of the disorder, and the difficulties it can cause for kids at school. But sometimes, what a parent or teacher thinks is ADHD is actually something completely different. Outside with his friends, Myles has nothing but energy. But at school, it was another story.

"He wasn't focusing. He was always sleeping in school, so that kind of made me concerned in the beginning," said Therese Dumas, Myles' mom.

The symptoms were classic -- inattention, trouble concentrating, fatigue. Myles' mom thought he had ADHD; so did his teachers. But when three different medications didn't help, even Myles knew something else was wrong.

"I was falling asleep in class," said Myles.

"As a parent, it was frustrating wanting to help him, needing to help him, but not knowing how to help him," said Therese Dumas.

It wasn't until doctors performed a sleep study that things started to become clear -- Myles had a sleep disorder.

"Many of the kids with a sleep disorder will present with inattention. They'll have fatigue. They may even look like a child who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but in fact, it's related to their sleep," said Thomas Burns, PsyD, Neuropsychologist.

A sleep analysis study can identify sleep apnea or other problems that may look like ADHD.

"Here, I see that the child is sleeping fine and breathing is nice and regular, and then all of a sudden, he can't move any air," said Thomas Burns, PsyD.

Doctor Gary Montgomery says if your child snores, has restless sleep, difficulty falling asleep or daytime fatigue, don't assume it's ADHD. Talk to your pediatrician.

"The really important message for parents is if there's any problems during the day that might sound like attention deficit, then think about their child's sleep," said Gary Montgomery, MD.

Myles was diagnosed with narcolepsy. Now, medication is helping him stay awake and stay focused on his schoolwork.

Sleep disorders in children aren't always treated with medication. For instance, removing the tonsils or adenoids. And a special machine called a C-pap can clear the airways for kids with sleep apnea.


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