According to the American Psychiatric Association, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. A study conducted by the Center for Disease Control between 2012 and 2014 found that over 10% of American children ages 5 – 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD.
ADHD is linked to heredity and is not caused by bad parenting, too much sugar, or overexposure to screens. However, some things, like too much visual stimulation or sugar, do exacerbate symptoms. ADHD affects focus and impulse control, and overstimulation or certain foods can cause focus to deteriorate and impulsivity to rev up.
Many people believe out-of-control behavior is the hallmark of ADHD, the kid who can’t sit still or talks incessantly. However, that is not accurate. ADHD comes in three forms: Predominantly Hyperactive/ Impulsive, Inattentive, and Combined. Some are easier to identify than others. Let’s look at a few examples.
Predominantly Hyperactive/ Impulsive Type
Mason cannot sit still in class and tends to get up from his seat to walk around the room. He blurts out answers without hearing the whole question and feels the need to talk constantly. At home, his mom continually repeats, “No running!” and “Mommy is talking, don’t interrupt.”
Mason presents Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD. Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type children are the stereotypical ADHD kids who move constantly and interrupt conversations. They have endless amounts of energy no matter how much they move. Other symptoms of this type include excessive talking and walking or running when not appropriate.
Predominantly Inattentive Type
Julie overlooks details in her assignments and is easily distracted at home and at school. She is quiet and often day-dreams. Her folders are always disorganized, often losing her papers.
Julie’s behavior is symptomatic of the Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD. Predominantly Inattentive Type, also referred to as ADD, is a subtype of ADHD. It is not hyperactive, but still a significant, often overlooked form of ADHD . The biggest issue for these students is focus. They just don’t have the ability to stay on task. Ultimately, their constant in-and-out-of-focus results in so many missed details that there’s little comprehension of the lesson. They’re the students whose homework is always lost, or they forget to do it all together. Either way organization is a constant battle; they can never find important papers or books when needed. Other symptoms include chronically losing things, avoiding difficult tasks, and the inability to maintain attention no matter what.
At home, Maverick starts his language arts homework. Half-way through he gets up for a snack. When he comes back, he moves on to his math homework. In class, he talks constantly and blurts out answers when it’s not his turn. He is often distant, like he’s not there. It is hard to get his attention, even when talking to him directly. His mother complains that he can look right at her and not hear a word. He seems to be in another world.
Maverick illustrates the Combined Type ADHD. This type shows symptoms of both the Hyperactive and Inattentive Types. As a result, these children have boundless energy, paired with the inability to focus. It’s a disastrous combination, and children with Combined Type ADHD often stay “in trouble” with everyone–parents, teachers, and peers.
Get the Facts
It’s not uncommon for parents of inattentive and impulsive children to say, “Oh, it’s just ADHD!” without knowing that for a fact. Facts are important because there is real help and relief for ADHD symptoms. If you suspect your child has ADHD, a professional diagnosis is vital to getting the real help that is available. The first step would be a visit with his school psychologist, family physician, or private educational psychologist. These professionals use highly reliable assessments and scales, not invasive tests, to determine the presence of ADHD.
No matter the initial outcome, it is always wise to have the perspective of multiple professionals to be sure there is no other explanation. A reasonable starting point is with a psycho-educational assessment. Although assessments do not offer a medical diagnosis, the results from this type of evaluation will suggest non-pharmaceutical interventions for home and classroom. A skilled educational psychologist knows when to refer a child to a physician or other medical professional. At SailAway, we offer this type of assessment.
SailAway Assessments provide parents and teachers with accurate information about the probability that their child has ADHD. ADHD can be tricky. Many other conditions mimic the symptoms of true ADHD. Our tests suggest which is which. Is it likely this is ADHD? If not, they will possibly point to other non-medical root problems like working memory or visual processing. If one of those is the cause and not ADHD, many proven educational interventions exist.
For information on disorders that mimic ADHD symptoms, read the follow up to this article, “What If It’s Not ADHD?.”
About ADHD, (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/About-ADHD.aspx
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), (2016, June 28). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/adhd.htm