Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, are disorders characterized by hyperactivity, lack or focus and concentration, and other disruptive behaviors. Children with ADD or ADHD are especially vulnerable to the effects of the disorders. Often these children are behavior problems at school, frustrations at home, and, without proper diagnosis and intervention, less than functional adults.
Understanding what ADD is, which symptoms are true characteristics of the disorder and not normal child behaviors, and what options are available for treatment can make the journey for parent and child less frightening. ADD and ADHD are treatable and that treatment can help a child reach their full potential without the obstacles put in their way from the disorder.
What is ADD?
ADD is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. It should be noted that ADD is not a side effect of parenting style, sugar overload, too much television, brain trauma, or a personality quirk. There are three subsets for ADD and ADHD. Each subset has progressively severe symptoms, ADD among the least severe symptom-wise. Not all children exhibit obvious symptoms of any of the subsets. On the other hand, some children who display classic ADD and ADHD symptoms, do not qualify as having either disorder. Only a physician can make the determination about whether or not a child suffers from ADD.
Symptoms of ADD
Children who can’t sit still, don’t think before they act, and talk a mile a minute are often pigeonholed by the casual observer as ADD, but the symptoms don’t necessarily add up to a disorder. Consistent exhibition of one or more symptoms should lead a parent to question a child’s behavior and seek the consult of the child’s pediatrician.
- The child cannot or will not sit still for any amount of time
- Cannot play calmly and quietly
- Interrupt and butt-in on conversations or other children playing
- Abandons chores, schoolwork, and pleasure projects before completion
- Shifts, squirms, jerks, fidgets, or hums
- Talks constantly
- Does not appear to be listening when spoken to
- Becomes distracted very easily
- Acts impulsively, sometimes to their own or someone else’s detriment
There is no blood test that can definitively prove that a child has ADD. A doctor conducts a battery of behavioral exams to determine the diagnosis. These tests include interviews with the child, his or her parents, enlistment of personnel from a child’s school to provide statements of witnessed behavior, and a thorough behavioral history drawn from the gathered information. The child will be referred to a child psychologist for further analysis of their behavior to confirm a suspected ADD diagnosis.
Treatments for ADD
ADD is often treated with a combination of medication to control the worst of the symptoms while attending regular therapy to learn coping mechanisms for the child to function successfully in the world. ADD is a lifelong disorder, and the sooner it is diagnosed, the faster a child and that child’s family will learn to cope and persevere.