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What Is ADD? What Is ADHD?

Monday, February 20, 2017 - 06:24

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. It is the same thing as ADHD. The name was changed to ADHD in 1994.

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It describes a range of behaviors that include difficulty paying attention, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity.

Because different countries tend to use different criteria to diagnose ADHD the percentage of children considered to have the condition is very different from country to country. Thus, in some European countries less than 1% of children are thought to have ADHD, yet in the USA, where diagnostic criteria are much wider with a broader set of symptoms, as many as 10% of children are considered to have ADHD. Boys outnumber girls 5 to 1 with this diagnosis.

  • In the U.S., about 3% to 5% of school-aged children have ADHD. That’s about 1 in 20 to 30, or an average of one child in each classroom.

  • Adults can have ADHD.

  • About one-third of children with ADHD appear to grow out of some, but not all, symptoms.

  • Symptoms of ADHD will begin before age 7.

  • Most children with ADHD have a close relative who has or had it.

  • In the case of identical twins, if one has ADHD, there is more than an 80% chance the other will also.

  • If a child receives a diagnosis of ADHD, there is a one in four chance that a parent has or had it.

Different types of ADHD:

Children with ADHD aren’t all alike. There are different types of ADHD. Each type has different symptoms.

  • Inattentive ADHD

  • Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD

  • Combined ADHD

Inattentive ADHD

This group of children has trouble paying attention and concentrating. A child with this type of ADHD will have six or more of these symptoms:

  • Difficulty following instructions

  • Difficulty paying attention to work or play

  • Loses things needed for activities at school or at home

  • Appears not to listen

  • Doesn’t pay close attention to details

  • Seems disorganized

  • Has trouble with tasks that require planning

  • Forgets

  • Is easily distracted

Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD

This group of children is overactive and behaves impulsively. A child with this type of ADHD will have six or more of these symptoms:

  • Fidgets

  • Can’t stay in his or her seat

  • Runs and climbs when it’s not appropriate

  • Talks too much

  • Can’t play quietly

  • Is always active

  • Blurts out answers

  • Has trouble waiting for his or her turn

  • Interrupts people

Combined ADHD

This is the type of ADHD diagnosed most frequently. These children will have at least six symptoms of both inattentive ADHD and hyperactive/impulsive ADHD. For example, they may have difficulty paying attention, and also fidget, talk too much, and run and climb when it’s not appropriate.

 

There is also a group called “not otherwise specified ADHD.” These children have fewer than six symptoms from both of the other types of ADHD, but their symptoms are severe enough to cause problems in everyday life.

 

Children who have difficulty paying attention:

  • Often have trouble paying attention to activities that don’t fully engage their interest

  • Often act without thinking about the consequences

 

Children with impulsive behavior:

  • Have difficulty screening out distractions and selecting what is most important to pay attention to

  • May have trouble starting or finishing tasks

  • Will understand rules, but may fail to use these rules to guide their behavior

 

Children with hyperactivity:

  • Are restless and have difficulty sitting still; they seem to be in constant motion

  • May interrupt others, blurt out comments and have trouble waiting their turn

 

But aren’t all children like that?

All children may be distracted, impulsive and overly active some of the time – whether or not they have ADHD. To be diagnosed as having ADHD, a child needs to:

  • Have at least six of the symptoms - see Different Types of ADHD

  • Have difficulty functioning well at home, at school and with friends

  • Have these symptoms for at least six months

 

Learning that your child has ADHD may come as a surprise. Yet for many parents the diagnosis comes as a relief, because at last there is an explanation why their child is having difficulty at school, with family and friends, and with behavior in general.

In the last 20 years, doctors and teachers have become better able to help children with ADHD and have developed new ways to help these youngsters gain greater control over their lives.

What’s It Like Having ADHD?

Children with ADHD can concentrate on activities they find interesting. When they are really involved in something or having fun or working for a reward, children with ADHD are not easily distracted. They pay attention and can stick with the task – for example they can play computer games for hours.

Problems arise when these children face tasks that are repetitive, uninteresting, and not of their own choosing. As soon as their interest in an activity wanes, they find it hard to stay with it. While most people can make themselves finish tasks, even if they are boring, children with ADHD will have difficulty.

In other words, the problem is not so much that they are distracted from whatever they’re doing, but rather that they seek something more interesting than what is in front of them.

 

Here is what some children with ADHD have said:

  • “It’s like watching TV and someone else has the remote, and keeps changing the channels.”

  • “I can play computer games all day. In fact I’m a whiz. Just don’t ask me to sit still in school. Especially for social studies.”

  • “I really do try hard, I definitely want to go to college. But sitting still and just listening and studying is really hard.”

  • “I know I’m hyper. A lot of kids tease me about that. It hurts my feelings but I don’t care.”

 

How Common Is ADHD?

About 3% to 5% of school-aged children have ADHD. That’s about 1 in 20 to 30, or an average of one child in each classroom.

Most of the children who are referred for treatment are boys, perhaps because boys are most likely to disturb the peace at home or in the classroom. In fact, there may be just as many girls as boys who have ADHD, but they are less likely to be hyperactive, and therefore they don’t “rock the boat.” As a result, girls are also less likely to obtain treatment, and often go through school undiagnosed and quietly failing because of their wandering attention.

As your child gets older, ask what ADHD feels like. Many children like to talk about it, and that helps.

Will The Child Grow Out Of ADHD?

About one-third of children with ADHD appear to grow out of some, but not all, symptoms.

In some children, hyperactivity slows at puberty, or else the child learns to curb or to compensate for hyperactive behaviors. But the problems of inattention and disorganization may persist.

For many, ADHD will continue into adulthood. That possibility makes it extremely important to give the child the tools that can help for a lifetime.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My 8-year-old daugher was just diagnosed with ADHD. Will this be a lifelong problem for her?

A: About one-third of children with ADHD appear to grow out of some, but not all, symptoms. In some children, hyperactivity slows at puberty, or else the child learns to curb or to compensate for hyperactive behaviors. But the problems of inattention and disorganization persist. For many, ADHD will continue into adulthood. That possibility makes it extremely important to give the child the tools that can help for a lifetime.

 

Q: When examining my son for a possible ADHD problem, the pediatrician tested his hearing and reading abilities. Why would she do this?

A: Other conditions, such as hearing problems and learning disabilities, can cause symptoms that mimic those of ADHD. The diagnostic process must be thorough to make sure that your child has ADHD and not a condition that produces similar symptoms. Some of these conditions may occur along with ADHD. If an additional condition is present along with ADHD, that condition must be treated as well.

 

Q: My doctor suggested treating my son’s ADHD with medication, but I’m worried. Do these medications work by “drugging” the child?

A: The medications most often used in ADHD are stimulants. They won’t sedate your son or make him sleepy. Rather, they’ll help his brain work in the way that it would if he didn’t have ADHD. They wake up the brains “braking system” – the parts that are responsible for self-regulation.

 

Q: My wife and I disagree on how to handle our 10-year-old daughter, who has ADHD. I’ve suggested rewarding her for doing the right thing, but my wife considers it a bribe. Do rewards work?

A: Rewards can be used to reinforce the specific positive skills or behaviors that you want to see more often. When a child gets a reward for doing something, he or she is much more likely to do it again. But don’t give rewards before the behavior has been done. That’s a bribe, rather than a reward.

 

 

ADD AND ADHD