Virtually everyone with a child in public school knows a child with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Both conditions are being increasingly diagnosed among school age children in the United States. Often the terms are used in everyday speech by people who feel that they are having trouble concentrating.
However, both conditions involve more than a lack of concentration and need to be diagnosed by professionals. So, due to the prevalence of ADD and ADHD and misconceptions associated with the terms, it is important to understand what they are, why the cases of each seem to be increasing in the United States and how they can be treated.
What Are ADD and ADHD?
ADD is an old term that has been replaced by ADHD. ADHD is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder that is estimated to affect up to 5% of the world’s population. The most common symptoms of the disorder are not paying attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. ADHD is further divided into three subcategories. The first is ADHD-I where the primary symptom is inattentiveness. This is the kind of ADHD that was formerly known as ADD.
Students with ADHD often are careless in their schoolwork, unable to sit still for long periods of time, are easily distracted and do not seem to listen or pay attention to their teachers. This often results in poor academic grades, frustrated students and aggravated parents and teachers.
Why does ADHD Seem to Be Becoming More Common?
The reasons why ADHD seems to be becoming more common among school children in the United States is often debated. Some people contend that more students are presenting the symptoms in school than students of earlier generations. Other people contend that ADHD was an often under diagnosed or misdiagnosed condition in earlier generations and that the increased numbers are actually relevant of the true prevalence of the condition across different generations. Still others contend that ADHD is being over diagnosed now and that any student who is impulsive or who has too much energy is diagnosed as having ADHD.
All of these reasons for the increase in diagnoses are plausible. However, if a qualified doctor is making the diagnosis then it stands to reason that students who need help will be receiving appropriate services. Doctors have strict protocols that they need to follow when making an ADHD diagnosis. Specifically, patients must be found to present 6 out of 9 very specific symptoms of inattention or 6 out of 9 very specific symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsiveness over a period of six months or more. Further, the inattention or hyperactivity and impulsiveness must be significant to the point that they are found to be disruptive and inappropriate for the student’s development level. Additionally, some of the symptoms must have started before the child reached age 7, the symptoms must be present in two or more settings (such as school and home), the symptoms must significantly impair schoolwork or social functioning and the symptoms must not be accounted for by another disorder.
How Is ADHD Treated?
ADHD can be treated through a combination of medication, behavior modifications, life style changes and counseling. Of course a public school may not require a child to be medicated. So, medication and often life style changes are out of the control of teachers and administrators. If a child is medicated and a family is making life style changes that would be useful information to share with the school, however.
Regardless of the family’s actions, the school has a responsibility to educate a student with ADHD. If the student’s ADHD is significantly impacting his or her progress in the general curriculum and the student therefore needs specialized instruction than the student will be found eligible for special education. IEPs will be written for students with disabilities with appropriate accommodations and modifications. Schools can appropriately work on behavior modifications and counseling as they relate to the child’s progress in school.
Whether you term the condition ADD or ADHD, students with this disorder often need help in school. It is a condition that is being increasingly diagnosed in the U.S. and that is leading more and more educators to be aware of the symptoms and effective strategies for allowing ADD or ADHD students to succeed in the general curriculum.