Marty walks around the classroom, daydreams instead of listens, and turns in half-finished assignments if he turns them in at all. He gets off the school bus, runs to the house, through the door, up the stairs, to his bedroom and immediately whips out the video games. The science project, due tomorrow, never enters his mind. He’s a bright kid, just can’t harness his energy for school.

His parents think, “It must be ADHD.”

Are they right or is it something else?

ADHD is the go-to answer when children have focus issues or display overactive behavior. It’s become a household term for anyone with seemingly too much energy or a short attention span. Parents and peers proclaim, “ADHD.” Satisfied with that conclusion, they fail to explore other options that mimic ADHD symptoms, like lesser known medical conditions, such as Auditory Processing Disorder, Poor Working Memory, and Anxiety or a non-medical answer like excessive energy.


Auditory Processing Disorder          


Children with Auditory Processing Disorder are unable to quickly decipher speech. It takes them longer to distinguish different sounds as well as translate those sounds into meaning. What comes so easily to everyone else requires huge effort for these children. Exhausted by the process, they may shut down, stare off into space, disrupt others, display inappropriate behaviors, or turn to less mentally taxing things instead of concentrating on learning. On the surface, this lack of focus looks just like Inattentive Type ADHD.


Poor Working Memory


Poor Working Memory also masquerades as Inattentive Type ADHD. Students struggle with remembering details, get lost, and seem distracted or distant. The difference between ADHD and poor working memory is the way the brain tracks new information. A brain affected by poor working memory is unable to keep track of as many tasks as a fully functioning brain. These children don’t forget assignments, they never knew they existed.


Anxiety disorders


Children with anxiety disorders, or just high stress, may display symptoms of the Combined Type ADHD. Underlying worries cause them to lose focus or act out. Fear of  being insufficient paralyzes some, halting all forward progress in learning.


Excessive Energy


Not a medical condition, excessive energy lands many children in ADHD treatment. Predominantly Hyperactive/ Impulsive Type symptoms describe an energetic young boy’s behavior; and in some cases, an energetic young boy (or girl) is all it is. Kids who do not naturally sit still and remain quiet are labeled as behavior problems and may receive treatment for ADHD when they never had the disorder in the first place.


Get the Facts


Before treating ADHD, it is imperative to know that ADHD is the root cause of your child’s symptoms. Treating any of these conditions as ADHD is not only unproductive it is also potentially harmful. Before assuming your child has ADHD and pursuing medical solutions, seek reliable professional confirmation from a school counselor, school psychologist or private educational psychologist.

At SailAway, our educational psychologists use proven assessments to take a detailed look at your child’s brain functioning. Assessments pinpoint the root cause of your child’s seeming ADHD behavior, and the assessment results will direct you toward the right treatment options, often non-pharmaceutical. If the issue is working memory or auditory processing, proven educational solutions exist to help. However, if the assessments indicate that the results are not within normal limits and beyond the scope of our educational practice, we refer our families to medical professionals who support the least invasive options to solve the problems.

If you suspect your child has ADHD or one of the other disorders listed above, don’t wait to get help. Call us today!



American Psychiatric Association (2013). Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Breggin, P. R. (2002). The Ritalin Fact Book: What your doctor won’t tell you about ADHD and stimulant drugs. Perseus Publishing.

Gathercole, S.E. (2008, May). Working memory in the classroom. The Psychologist. Retrieved from

Lucker, J. R. (2017). What is APD? Retrieved from