Is your child Hyperactive?

October 01, 2011

It is common for any child to be active, sometimes even excessively, and this is normal. Likewise, it is common for children to lack interest and become disorderly, especially at school. But before we categorise this behaviour as 'hyperactivity,' we must understand that hyperactivity is characterised by uninterrupted activity.

A hyperactive individual is active 24 hours a day, and even sleeps restlessly. When he is physically exhausted, his mind still needs to be active. Even though the body can not take it, the mind remains in action.

Hyperactivity is not a disease in itself, and is usually a symptom of disorders such as Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, some types of Attention deficit disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder and other learning or behavioural disorders.

There are several angles to consider: When a child is very active, always busy and never seems to get tired, you should observe how he sleeps. If he has restless sleep with or without nightmares, sleeps fitfully, falls out of bed or suffers from tics, seizures or other symptoms, he should be referred to a professional (paediatrician, therapist or psychiatrist) who is able to identify and treat the condition, or can refer the child to a specialist.

If the child's sleep is quiet and restful, we can say that he is normal. Then all you should do is leave him to spend all his energy during the day and to sleep and rest quietly at night. If the child is of school-going age, he should attend a school that has enough space for playing, and good toys.

If the child is not in school yet, it is up to parents to take him to a public park or playground. They can play instructive games with him, like play puppet theatre, for example. It is possible to make simple puppets with your child and then use them for this purpose. It will keep him busy for a long time and is an educational activity. In addition, many other activities can be organised with creativity and patience. Parents can explore several avenues to keep their children occupied and entertained.

In the case of indiscipline in small children, the quality of education should be reviewed as indiscipline and poor education often go together. If the child has a discipline problem in school, the number of unruly students in the class should be analysed.

If the entire class is well behaved and only a few students are disobedient, you should check who is responsible, since one child's bad manners may be causing a disturbance. When in doubt, a psychologist's intervention can be sought, because a psychologist can see if the children have any problems and/or forward them to other professionals for treatment.

If the whole class is undisciplined, it is likely that the teacher is boring, or some other factors are at play. A creative and interested teacher can surely find ways to make a class dynamic and interesting, and also discipline the children.

In case of exaggerated hyperactivity, seizures without complications, or if it is impossible to control the child, he should be referred to a psychologist or neuropsychologist who will be able to identify the disorder and treat it.

Laura Do Vale is a trained clinical psychologist as well as a neuro-psychologist with over ten years of practice. She is currently doing her PhD from the University of Estremadura, Spain. She has practiced at the trauma unit of the Central Hospital of S. Jose; at the oncology unit at Capuchos Hospital, the Children’s Hospital at Dona Estefânia and as the pneumologist at the Hospital of Sta Marta, Lisboa – Portugal. She ­works at Muscat Private Hospital.