Understanding an ADD or ADHD diagnosis

There has been a lot of controversy over ADD and ADHD in medical fields so it’s no wonder that individuals and parents of children diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) find the diagnosis almost as confusing to deal with as the symptoms of the disorder.

Understanding an ADD or ADHD diagnosis

Is ADD or ADHD a Mental Illness

According to the National Clinical Practice Guideline for the diagnosis and management of ADHD, ADHD (now the accepted term for ADHD or ADD) is considered a behavioral condition and not a neurological disease.

It is important to note that conditions often co-exist with ADD/ADHD such as learning problems, mood disorders, aggression and others, however, these conditions are not part of the diagnosis for ADD/ADHD and can be caused by factors unrelated to ADD or ADHD.

ADHD is also not an indicator of a lack of intelligence although the symptoms of ADHD can negatively affect a child or adult’s ability to perform at school and work and may also co-exist with learning disabilities.

The symptoms of ADHD also vary in severity from one individual to the next. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD include: inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, however, in approximately 1/3 of cases the criteria for hyperactivity is not met and the condition is classified as predominantly inattentive ADHD.

Do Children Outgrow ADD or ADHD

Although it was previously thought that children outgrew ADD, it is now becoming accepted by many in the medical community that individuals diagnosed with ADD in childhood can continue to exhibit symptoms as adults.

Studies vary on the percentages but in recent years it has been suggested that half – two thirds of individuals diagnosed with ADHD as children continue to be affected by the disorder as adults.

It is possible that ADD is even more prevalent in adults as research has not conclusively determined the number of adults with ADHD and whether the symptoms disappear or individuals have simply found ways of managing their symptoms over time.

It is possible for the nature of the symptoms in adults to change or diminish based on current diagnostic analysis, so adults may not find their current lifestyle to be impacted in the same way by their ADHD as when they were children, or may not fit the diagnostics used to identify the disorder in children.

Does ADD or ADHD Have to be Treated with Medication

Depending on the impact of ADD on an individual’s daily life, they may or may not be advised to treat with medication.

Stimulants such as Ritalin, Dexedrine and Adderall are the most commonly prescribed medication treatments, although antidepressants may also be recommended for some patients.

Therapy or counseling are also recommended to help both children and adults living with ADD or ADHD. Coaching can help adults deal with time management and other areas that need improvement while children may benefit from educational intervention and behavior therapy either alone, or in combination with other treatment.

ADD or ADHD diagnosis

Another form of treatment that is still in controversy is the use of elimination diets or supplementation. Conclusive evidence has not been formed on these treatments, however, anecdotal reports may indicate that some children do benefit from these measures.

Before considering any treatment it is important to examine whether an underlying cause is responsible for ADHD-type symptoms as some conditions can mimic the symptoms of ADHD and respond better to different treatments.

Why Treatment of ADD/ADHD is Important

If left untreated, a person with ADHD runs an increased risk of drug use, depression, anxiety and other problems associated with the struggles to live with the disability. The treatment of ADD/ADHD helps sufferers cope with the effects of their symptoms at school, work and in relationships.

Each individual or parent needs to assess the risks and benefits of recommended treatment and consult with medical professionals about their options. Once diagnosed, continued assessment should be part of any treatment plan so that changes in behavior, side effects or improvements can be tracked and modifications made.

Identifying ADHD in Young Students

One of the most common challenges facing today’s early educators is to identify and help students who have ADHD. If the important symptoms of ADHD are ignored, children with this neurobehavioral disorder are at risk for poor academic performance, disciplinary problems, violent behavior, depression, and even drug abuse. Early identification and intervention is crucial for children with ADHD.

ADHD has been classified into three different types: hyperactive/impulsive, inattentive, and combined. Each of these will have its own set of behaviors and symptoms that teachers can watch for when this common disorder is suspected.

Symptoms of ADHD and Hyperactivity

ADHD diagnosis

Children with impulsive type ADHD will be unable to sit still, and have very high energy when compared to their peers. Teachers may look for the following behaviors in children that they suspect may have this form of ADHD:

Cannot take turns
Interrupts others constantly
Always fidgeting or moving various parts of their body, even when at rest
Has trouble remaining seated
Has to run instead of walking
Chattering excessively
Cannot raise hand to answer questions
Has trouble playing quietly

Symptoms of ADHD and Inattentiveness

Teachers may have more difficulty identifying students with the inattentive type of ADHD (often referred to as ADD) because they will not necessarily display the overactive behavior that is representative of the disorder. Because inattention is harder to spot, children with ADD often go undiagnosed and therefore suffer academically as a result. If a child is having trouble keeping up with peers in the classroom setting, pay attention to the following possible symptoms of inattention:

Frequently makes careless mistakes on schoolwork
Forgetful, loses school supplies, eyeglasses, and other necessary items
Distracted by noises or other classroom happenings
Cannot keep attention on tasks
Trouble listening or remembering directions
Rarely is able to complete assignments
Disorganized play
Avoidance of work that requires significant effort

ADHD and Combined Type

For a child with both hyperactivity and inattentiveness, some or all of the above symptoms may be present. It will be up to the teacher to help a child with ADHD to focus, organize, and plan his day. A clear and predictable classroom routine is a must for students with ADHD. Managing classroom behavior will not be easy, but for the child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it will be immensely helpful.

The more knowledgeable early educators are about ADHD and the more they accept the fact that the disorder is a biological one, the more effective they will be in helping these students. A teacher will need to have a keen eye when monitoring a student’s behaviors. She will be relied upon to recommend a child for evaluation and ultimately promotion or retention. Identifying ADHD in preschool/kindergarten has become another important role for teachers.