Thursday, February 21, 2013

Is It Just 'Normal' Behavior, Or Is it ADD?

“He's just being a normal kid.”
“Sure, she daydreams in class. She's probably just bored and needs a challenge.”
“He doesn't have a problem. The teacher just doesn't want to deal with him.”
“She's just being lazy.”
“Well, maybe if he'd pay attention in class and not stare at the girls, he'd make decent grades.”

These are but a few things parents might think or say when they hear their child has Attention-Deficit Disorder. It's no wonder-disorders like this have been obscenely over-diagnosed and over-medicated over the past decade or so. But how can you tell if your child actually does have a problem? If he does, what can you do about it? Here are some things you should know.

There are two main attention-deficit disorders-Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These disorders are actually difficult to diagnose because they share symptoms with other things-including 'just being a kid' or 'misbehaving'. For children with ADD/ADHD, however, they are to a degree where they cause problems across a wide spectrum of the child's life-home, school, play, etc. In some cases, the symptoms can continue into adulthood. I have ADHD myself, so I know this from experience.

One of the main indicators of ADD/ADHD is inattention. For instance, a child with ADD/ADHD might not seem to be listening when they are directly spoken to. It might appear that your child isn't paying attention or thinking before s/he acts, but that's not the case at all. Rather, the thoughts are moving so fast that they can't always be processed. They may have a hard time following directions, staying on task or finishing what they start. They might make careless mistakes, be forgetful or be reluctant to do anything that requires a lot of attention and effort. While most kids (and adults!) will do these things from time to time, it's not a common occurrence. With ADD/ADHD, it is.

The other common problems with ADD/ADHD are impulsivity and hyperactivity. Sometimes a child with ADD/ADHD will still display behaviors-fidgeting, picking at things, etc-that other children their age have grown out of. One big problem I still have is called 'pressured speech'-interrupting people, blurting out the answers before the question is even finished, etc. It's almost as though my brain is constantly on 'overdrive'. It's also not uncommon for children with ADD/ADHD to constantly squirm in their seats, talk out of turn or have a hard time with 'quiet' activities.

If your child *does* indeed have ADD/ADHD, what can you do about it? The good news is that, with some combination of medication and therapy, ADD/ADHD is very manageable. Believe it or not, the medications are usually some form of amphetamine or 'speed'. Due to the brain chemistry involved in ADD/ADHD, however, these drugs have the opposite effect; they slow the brain down rather than speeding it up. It sounds strange, but can be very helpful. Either way, see the doctor. It may take a bit of 'trial and error' to find the treatment for ADD/ADHD that works best for your child, but it's worth the effort.


  1. Well done describing ADD/ADHD. I myself have ADD and so does my eleven year old son. It is definitely a process, although I am looking into alternative methods of treatment, rather than medication.

  2. This is something I wish individuals here in Zambia knew more about. Knowledge of ADD/ADHD is slowly developing along with my country's progress. Instead of a child being determined a bad child or full of trouble, there should be some kind of testing being done.