ADHD: Recognizing the Symptoms

Children who have ADHD present predominantly with symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, or a combination of these symptoms. The disorder has had numerous names over the last several decades: minimal brain damage, minimal brain dysfunction, hyperkinetic reaction of childhood, attention- deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity, and, since 1987, attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Diagnosing ADHD

Symptom lists that are used for the diagnosis of ADHD are split into inattentive and hyperactive- impulsive criteria. If an individual has six or more symptoms from both lists, he or she would be diagnosed with ADHD, combined presentation. If an individual has six or more symptoms in one list but not the other, he or she would be considered to have ADHD, predominantly inattentive or ADHD, predominantly hyperactive- impulsive form.

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ADHD: Helping Students Regulate Attention

Is it an Attention Deficit?

One of the greatest misconceptions about ADHD is that it renders a person unable to pay attention. In fact, many educators contact me and say, “He can’t have ADHD! He can spend hours on the activities he wants to!”  What science has taught us is that because of the below-normal activity in the neurotransmission of dopamine and norepinephrine, some people struggle regulating their attention, leading some professionals to suggest that we rename ADHD “deficits in attention regulation disorder.” People with ADHD can pay attention, but not always when they need to, for as long as they need to, or on what they need to—especially when they are not interested or internally motivated. Sometimes, when a person is very interested in what he or she is focused on (such as playing a video game or building with blocks), the individual is actually “hyperfocused.” This means that the person is deeply and intensely focused to the point that he or she has shut out other thoughts or stimuli. This is why very often people with ADHD have a hard time transitioning from one task to another.

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