Many parents go to psychology consultations worried that their children may suffer from ADHD. It is not for less since it is one of the most diagnosed child psychological disorders in Spain, with an incidence that ranges between 3 and 7%, which is equivalent to one or two children per classroom. However, the truth is that in some cases it is not about hyperactivity but about children with high demand or who suffer from nervousness.
The fine line between a high demand child, with hyperactivity or nervousness
First of all, it is important for parents to keep in mind that most children are naturally active. Childhood is a stage of discovery and experiences and children need to test their motor skills, so it is normal for little ones to be very dynamic, have inexhaustible energy and cannot sit still for a long time. Things that should be learned in school.
In addition, when they are young, the prefrontal cortex of the brain has not finished developing, which explains why it is difficult for them to concentrate on an activity for long periods. Therefore, it is normal for them to get bored easily and switch from one activity to another, even if they have not finished what they were doing. That happens to practically all children and does not mean that they have an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
However, there are children who show a higher level of activity than their peers, react more sensitively to stimuli and are more difficult to please, they are called high demand children. In the same way, there are other little ones who overreact to stimuli, are easily irritated or startled and show signs of hyperactivity , especially in situations that make them nervous. In that case it is about nervous children.
Both high-demand and nervous kids and toddlers with ADHD share similar characteristics, especially during early childhood, so even specialists can confuse the diagnosis. However, in reality these are different conditions. ADHD is considered a neurobiological disorder, but childhood nervousness is associated with a characteristic of the nervous system and “high demand” is described as a condition that encompasses a type of childhood behavior.
The main differences between high demand, hyperactive and nervous children
The main difference when it comes to diagnosing high demand, hyperactive and nervous children lies in the causes of those conditions. In the case of ADHD, it is considered a neurobiological disorder that is determined by both genetic and hereditary factors as well as environmental factors, while in the case of nervous children, in addition to being a learned behavior, it is usually associated with a characteristic of their nervous system, which is much more sensitive and hyper-reactive.
In contrast, the term “high demand” does not imply a medical or psychological problem, but rather describes a range of child behaviors that are more intense than average. However, it is not the only difference, there are other signs that can alert parents about the condition their child suffers from.
1. Sensitivity to stimuli
High -demand children are characterized by their marked sensitivity to stimuli. They are usually very sensitive and vulnerable children, who are affected by almost everything. On the other hand, nervous children overreact to situations in everyday life, are easily annoyed by things that go unnoticed by others or are frightened by things that others are not afraid of. However, hyperactive children are not usually very sensitive to environmental stimuli, since it is difficult for them to stay focused on the same situation for a long time.
2. Activity level
Both high-demand and hyperactive children display a very intense level of activity. They are usually children with a lot of energy, always ready to take action, with a great ability to change from one task to another, and they have a hard time staying calm for a long time. Instead, while it is true that nervous children can channel their anxiety by behaving in a hyperactive way, in reality this behavior is just a way to relieve the tension they experience.
3. Impulsive behaviors
One of the most distinctive traits of children with ADHD is their impulsive behavior. As a general rule, hyperactive children find it very difficult to control themselves and often respond before being asked, make rash decisions, or have trouble waiting their turn. However, this is unusual for high-demand or nervous children. These little ones can act impulsively at certain times since, after all, they are children, but they do not usually have difficulties controlling their behavior and waiting patiently.
4. Need for attention
One of the most typical characteristics of high demand children is that they demand a lot of attention. These are little ones who need constant attention and who like to feel accompanied. In fact, they are often victims of separation anxiety because they find it difficult to spend time alone. In contrast, this does not usually happen to nervous children or those who suffer from hyperactivity. It is true that sometimes they can demand more attention than usual, especially when they are going through an emotionally complex situation, they are bored or want to do some activity accompanied, but it is not something that distinguishes them.
5. Ability to concentrate
Another key factor in distinguishing a high-demand child from a hyperactive or nervous child is looking at their ability to focus. Generally, hyperactive children tend to have difficulty concentrating on the same activity for a long time and also tend to get bored easily. On the other hand, although nervous or high-demand children may lose concentration when they are not interested in a task, if it motivates them they are capable of remaining engaged in the same activity for a long time. These little ones have no trouble focusing their attention and forgetting about the world around them.