Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which is often referred to as ADD or ADHD, is a developmental disorder of self-control characterized by problems with attention span, impulse control, and activity level. Recent (2011) research from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention indicates that approximately 9% of U.S. children between the ages of 5-17 have ADHD. According to a leading researcher in the field, Russell Barkley, Ph.D., ADD / ADHD is not a phase of childhood that will be outgrown, nor is it indicative of poor parental discipline or something inherently “bad” in a child or adult. It is not a disorder seen only in childhood, but the current definition requires that it must have been apparent beginning in childhood.
There are three subtypes of ADHD:
- ADHD – Predominantly Inattentive Type is sometimes referred to as ADD, and includes difficulties with attention, but not with hyperactivity/impulsivity.
- ADHD – Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type , as the name implies, is characterized by significant problems with hyperactivity and impulsivity but does not include significant deficits of attention.
- ADHD Combined Type is perhaps the most commonly referred to condition and it includes difficulties with both attention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.
Difficulties that individuals with ADD/ADHD frequently demonstrate during school-age years include:
- May seem to easily lose focus (stares into space, mind wanders, etc.)
- May have difficulty staying seated in class
- May fidget excessively (constant knee bouncing, pencil tapping, etc.)
- May blurt out verbal responses in class or may frequently interrupt others’ conversations
- Difficulty organizing tasks – may frequently lose homework, messy desk/locker/backpack
- May have difficulties learning math facts
- May struggle with writing skills – particularly when organizing responses
- May not be responsive to disciplinary procedures that are effective with other children (e.g., loss of privileges does not change behavior)
- May struggle with social interactions as they have difficulty respecting others’ space or may behave impulsively in social situations
In some bright/gifted individuals, difficulties with ADD/ADHD do not become apparent until they are older and the rigors of the classroom environment become more demanding. Such individuals may have been successful when they could complete all homework in class. However, once they have more homework to do and long-term projects to complete, they begin experiencing difficulties to an extent that affects their grades and the amount of material they learn. Individuals with the Predominantly Inattentive Type of ADHD can be even more difficult to identify and may be labeled as underachievers who are simply not performing up to their potential since they are less likely to act out in class.
It is important to note that other psychological and medical conditions can also result in attention difficulties. For example, individuals who are dyslexic, depressed, sleep deprived, anxious, or have working memory or processing speed deficits can all have many overlapping symptoms as those of ADD/ADHD. A comprehensive assessment for ADD/ADHD conducted by an ApaCenter professional allows you to get a clear understanding of the attention-related problems that you or your child are having. Proper diagnosis, which includes a thorough understanding of an individual’s strengths and resources, can guide appropriate treatment recommendations. Importantly, such an evaluation can also help you or your child gain access to critical services and accommodations in school or college, such as extended time on standardized tests.
If you have additional questions or would like to set up an appointment with one of our professionals, please contact us (512) 891-1500.