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What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

David E. Smith, CSW


What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

To put it simply, the label of "attention deficit hyperactive disorder" is used to describe neurological / developmental disorder, characterized by recurrent difficulties attending to tasks and following them through to completion. The behaviors, which are primarily difficulties with attention, impulsivity and self-control, impact on ones ability to function in major life areas such as work or school. It is seen as primarily a childhood disorder, however, this is a misnomer as many children with ADHD grow up to become adults with ADHD if the condition is not addressed. For a child to be diagnosed with the condition, specific criteria need to be met.

The information below should serve as a guideline for determining whether this is something that your child may be dealing with.

Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive or is inconsistent with developmental level:

*often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work or other activities
*often has difficulty sustaining attention performing tasks or during play
*often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
*often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, duties
*often has difficulties organizing tasks and activities
*often dislikes, avoids or refuses to engage in tasks requiring sustained mental effort
*often loses things necessary for tasks or activities
*is easily distracted by things happening around him/ her
*is often forgetful in daily activities

~ or ~

Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity/ impulsivity have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive or is inconsistent with developmental level

*often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
*often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations where remaining seated is expected
*often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which such behavior is inappropriate
*often has difficulty in playing or in engaging in leisure activities quietly
*is often on the go
*often talks excessively

*often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
*often has difficulty awaiting turn
*often interrupts or intrudes on others

An accurate diagnosis is the most critical piece in effectively addressing your child's behavior or learning problems. While many professionals are qualified to provide a diagnosis of ADHD, the single most qualified person in the diagnosis process is you as the parent. Diagnosing ADHD involves taking into account a child's learning style, temperament, social and emotional adjustment, relevant medical and academic history, intellectual level and behavior at home. This is crucial in evaluating the diagnosis as other problems can look very similar to ADHD. For example, children struggling with learning disabilities, oppositional-defiant disorder, depression, adjustment and anxiety disorders, vision and hearing problems, allergies and a variety of other problems display behaviors that are similar to those seen in true attention deficit disorder.

What can you do once you suspect that your child has attention deficit disorder? The next step should be to consult with a qualified professional to have your suspicions confirmed (or ruled out). One word of caution though, as psychiatrists are trained under what is referred to as "the medical model", meaning that conditions such as ADHD are reflective of a disease and the cure can be found via medication. This is not in keeping of the theme of our site and we urge parents to consider the many alternative treatments that are currently available for ADHD. For example, research into the impact of Yoga on Attention Deficit Disorder has been promising as has nutritionally based therapies such as the Feingold Diet. Behavior modification techniques, play therapy, chiropractic and and more Individualized Educational Programming (referred to as IEP by various educational boards) , other non-medication alternatives, have also been used effectively in changing problematic behaviors.

As with anything else, doing your research, consulting with others and asking many questions can help prepare you as a parent for addressing the challenges presented by a child struggling with ADHD.

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Copyright 2000-2001 by Alternative Parenting. All Rights Reserved. Response by David E. Smith, CSW- Resident therapist at Alternative Parenting is an on-line resource for parents interested in a more natural parenting lifestyle. For more information and great articles on attachment parenting, home schooling, children's health, working from home, natural pregnancy and much more, visit the site that is dedicated to living naturally at

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