What is AD/HD?

What is AD/HD? 

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is sometimes misunderstood.  It is a term that is used often, although the people saying it may not quite know what it means.  For decades the syndrome now called AD/HD was thought to have been a childhood behavior disorder characterized by chronic restlessness, excessive impulsivity, and an inability to sit still.  At this time, the syndrome was termed “hyperkinetic disorder.”  It was in 1980 that the name was changed to Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (Brown, p.9).   The syndrome AD/HD has been recognized as a disability by the courts, United States Department of Education, the Office for Civil Rights, the United States Congress, the National Institutes of Health, and all major professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, and educational associations (add.org).

 Below is some information as to how AD/HD is defined according to the American Psychiatric Assocation.

Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity disorder have either or both of the following characteristics (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; Barkley, 1998-McDevitt text):

  • Inattention. 
  • Children may be easily distracted by either external stimuli or their own thoughts.  They may daydream; have trouble listening to and following directions, or give up easily when working on difficult tasks.
  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity.
  • Children may seem to have an excess amount of energy.  They may be fidgety, move around at inappropriate times, talk excessively, or have difficulty working or playing quietly.  They may also show impulsive behaviors as blurting out answers, interrupting others, making careless mistakes, and acting without thinking about potential consequences of behavior.

Sometimes parents and teachers find it difficult to distinguish normal behavior versus ADHD behavior.  Healthy children are often inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive at one time or another.  You may want to seek out the opinion of a professional if you notice that your child's behavior (mayoclinic.com):

  • lasts more than six months.
  • Occurs in more than one setting (typically at home and school)
  • Causes problems in relationships with adults and other children.

Along with the aforementioned characteristics, children with ADHD may have difficulties with cognitive processing, academic achievement, interpersonal skills, or classroom behavior (Barkley, 1998; S. Goldstein & Rider, 2006)-McDevitt text.

ADHD in children: Children with AD/HD tend to get injured more often than other children their age.  There are strong indications that accidental poisonings, broken limbs, head injuries, and other accidents requiring hospitalization occur at much higher rates among children with ADHD (Brown, 93.)  In addition, children with AD/HD tend to have difficulty cooperating with peers and adults. 

It has also been shown that children with AD/HD often have language and communication impairments making it difficult for them to effectively draw conclusions or to say the right thing when having a conversation (Brown, 101.)

ADHD in adolescence: In adolescence, hyperactivity is shown to diminish and attention span and impuse become more controlled (E.L. Hart, Lahey, Loeber, Applegate, and Frink, 1995-McDevitt text).

Adolescents with ADHD have greater difficulty than their peers in successfully meeting the challenges of the teenage years with higher academic and social demands put upon them. (Barkley, 1998; S. Goldstein and Rider, 2006; Whalen, Jamner, Henker, Delfino and Lozano, 2002)-McDevitt text).

AD/HD is broken down into three different subtypes: Combined Type, Predominantly Inattentive Type, and Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type (ADA website.)