The word itself means 'over-activeness' (from Greek 'hyper', over/too much, and Latin 'actio', action.) Many branches of science use the expression to signal that an activity is deficient, 'too much', as opposed to 'hypoactivity', which means 'under-activeness', or 'not active enough'.
The term 'hyperactive child' is often used in everyday language as a synonym of a 'bad child', although it is hardly the case. Not every child that does 'nasty' or 'bad' things is hyperactive.
The full name of this pathology is 'attention deficit hyperactivity disorder', which tells us way more about the real nature of this condition. The group of symptoms of hyperactivity were first described by Hoffmann back in the 1840s; G. Still called it 'moral dyscontrol syndrome' in 1902. Later on the term 'minimal brain damage' was also used, based on the idea that it is some minimal brain injuries that might be behind this problem. However, this hypothesis was not backed by further examinations as, in most cases, there was no detectable deficiency found in the brain.
Typically, the first symptoms will appear in early childhood, making it hard for the child to 'blend in' in kindergarten. However, some more serious issues arise later on as the child starts elementary school. That is why it is mostly educational counsellors and paediatricians that will refer the 'problem child' to therapy.
A general description of a hyperactive child's syndromes:
The child...
- will not pay enough attention to detail in school work or other activities or makes mistakes out of carelessness
- does not seem to be paying attention when spoken to.
- will not follow orders or finish off school tasks or other tasks
- has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- tends to avoid, hate or resist tasks that would require him/her to make mental efforts for a longer period of time
- will often lose the equipment that is needed to carry out tasks or do certain activities
- gets easily distracted by outside stimuli
- is often forgetful in connection with daily tasks.
The reasons behind hyperactivity
There can be various reasons for a child to become hyperactive, starting with genetic ones. However, more and more experts are of the opinion that it is some factors during pregnancy that should be blamed, such as the mother taking medicine, drinking, smoking, toxicity or the mother's age, etc.
The circumstances of birth-giving are also crucial (lack of oxygen, Caesarean, RH incompatibility, etc.) The fact that birth-giving nowadays almost exclusively happens in a lying position also increases the odds of problem situations as it is more difficult for the baby's head to come out and thus the chances of a right frontal lobe injury are also higher.
Aggressive interventions into the natural pace of birth (rushing it for example) can also be a reason; many of the examined hyperactive children were born this way.
Last but not least, we must also mention that several environmental factors such as artificial flavouring, salicylates or lead for example) can also play a role in the development of attention deficit disorder. Recent findings have shown that many of these children suffer from some kind of allergy, mostly to food, or from lactose intolerance.
While earlier this group of symptoms was regarded as a brain functioning disorder, nowadays experts seem to have a whole new approach: they consider it to be of biological origin and mostly as a disorder of behavioural control and regulation.