ADD/ADHD in Children
All children get fidgety or impatient from time to time. Now and then, their attention wanders or they need to run around and blow off steam. And as we know, sometimes kids say the darndest things. But when inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior are the norm for a child, it may be a sign of ADHD. ADHD can lead to problems at home and at school, with family, teachers, and peers, so it's important to identify the symptoms and get help.
What is ADD or ADHD?
You know these kids: the ones who can't sit still, the ones who never seem to listen, who don't follow instructions no matter how clearly you present them, who blurt out inappropriate comments at inappropriate times. There's at least one in every classroom, and that one may be yours, because attention deficit disorder (ADD) affects people across the spectrum of race, class, gender, and age.
Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADD/ADHD) is a neurological condition that makes it difficult for people to inhibit their spontaneous responses—responses that can involve movement, speech, and attentiveness. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that between 3 and 5 percent of children in the United States have ADHD. This means that in a classroom of 25 to 30 children, at least one is likely to have ADHD.
Types of ADD/ADHD
There are three subtypes of ADD/ADHD:
- Predominantly inattentive
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
- Combined: inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive
That means children with ADD/ADHD don't all have the same problems. Some are hyperactive, while others sit quietly (with their attention miles away). Some put too much focus on a task and have trouble shifting it to something else. Others are only mildly inattentive but overly impulsive. Still others have significant problems in all three areas.
Signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD in children
Now and again, every child is absent-minded, restless, or impulsive. These symptoms point to ADD/ADHD when they're the rule and not the exception.
Symptoms of inattention
It isn't that children with ADD/ADHD can't pay attention: When they're doing things they enjoy or hearing about topics in which they're interested, they have no trouble focusing and staying on task. (The hard part may be pulling them away to the next activity.) But if a child with ADD isn't viscerally engaged by an activity, the attention of that child will quickly seek out a different activity or something else to think about.
Some symptoms of the inattentive type of ADD are:
- being easily distracted from a task, lesson, or conversation
- difficulty keeping the mind on any one thing
- getting bored with a task before it's completed
- skipping over details
- making careless mistakes
- difficulty listening when directly addressed
- difficulty following instructions or finishing tasks
- disorganization and forgetfulness
Children with ADD often bounce from task to task without completing any of them, or skipping necessary steps in procedures. They often have difficulty learning new material. Organizing their schoolwork and their time is harder for them than it is for most children.
Reprinted with the permission of Helpguide. © 2001-2008. All rights reserved.
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