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How Do I Know if My Child Has ADD?

Attention deficit disorder, or ADD, is a condition that affects many school-aged children. Also, less commonly, referred to as attention deficit syndrome, ADD is often considered a subcategory under the umbrella term AD/HD, which includes both attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

As the acronyms accurately reveal, what distinguishes ADD from its partner condition, ADHD, is the “H”: hyperactivity. Children with ADHD display most or all of the ADD symptoms listed below, but also exhibit an overabundance of hyper energy which those diagnosed with ADD do not.

Attention deficit disorders are difficult to diagnose for a number of reasons. First, ADD can be tricky to recognize, ironically, because it is so pervasive — it affects every part of a child’s life. Second, other medical problems can masquerade as attention deficit disorder. Third, it can be challenging to ascertain whether the child’s symptoms are actually the result of an underlying medical condition, or of another emotional or social trigger.

Did You Know?

Although the majority of recognized cases of attention deficit disorder occur in children, more and more adults are also being diagnosed with the condition. It’s believed that people with adult ADD have not actually developed it in adulthood, but rather that their symptoms have been present since childhood and were not previously identified or correctly diagnosed.

Because of the challenges to accurately assessing whether a child suffers from ADD, diagnosis remains a controversial topic: some doctors and scientists think it is heavily over-diagnosed, while others believe many cases still go unrecognized.

ADD Symptoms

With cases of attention deficit disorder, some or all of these symptoms will be present, with no other discernible medical reason or emotional trigger (such as a traumatic event or other big life change), for a period of longer than six months and to such a degree that they interfere with the child’s normal functioning — often most noticeably, but certainly not exclusively, in the classroom:

  • Extreme inattentiveness
  • Inability to concentrate or focus on one task at a time
  • Tendency to start but not complete projects
  • Highly impulsive behavior

In response to the emotional duress of dealing with their symptoms, your child may also exhibit signs of low self-esteem, anxiety or depression, or complain of ailments such as headaches or stomachaches.

What to Do

If you suspect that your child may have ADD, it’s important to raise your concerns with your family doctor or pediatrician. However, a diagnosis of ADD is not instantaneous; your doctor will want to rule out other potential health problems that might be behind your child’s symptoms, such as a learning disability or physical issue with their sight or hearing.

After Diagnosis

If your child is diagnosed with ADD, your doctor or specialist will provide a treatment plan to help manage symptoms and relieve the stress on your child and your family that living with attention deficit disorder can cause. Medication, behavioral or family counseling, or a combination may be recommendedas part of ADD treatment. Many parents also find that a local support group can provide them with additional ADD help and encouragement.

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