Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder - For Parents
What is an attention deficit disorder?
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or AD/HD is a neurobiological condition that affects 3%-5% of the school age population. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association describes three subtypes of AD/HD:
- Predominantly inattentive (may also be known as Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD)
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive (may also be known as ADHD)
- Combination of the two
How is AD/HD diagnosed?
Qualified professionals, such as paediatricians and psychiatrists, must make diagnosis. A comprehensive evaluation includes a developmental history, medical examination and behavioral rating scales completed by parents and teachers.
Essential to diagnosing AD/HD is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and more severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development. This pattern must be observed for six months or longer.
Symptoms of AD/HD include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Fails to give close attention to details
- Demonstrates difficulty sustaining attention to tasks or to play
- Is easily distracted
- Has difficulty finishing tasks
- Exhibits difficulty organizing tasks
- Loses things necessary for activities (e.g., pencils, books, assignments)
- Fidgets with hands and feet or squirms often
- Has difficulty remaining seated or runs about or climbs excessively when inappropriate (seems "motor-driven")
- Talks continually or blurts out answers before questions are completed and often interrupts others
- Avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g. schoolwork or homework)
What services are available for my child with AD/HD?
A medical diagnosis of AD/HD does not automatically qualify a child for special education services. If the child is experiencing academic performance problems, the parent or teacher may request an evaluation to determine if the child qualifies for special education services.
If a child does not qualify for special education services, she may be eligible for services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability. A student qualifies for a 504 plan if the team determines that he or she has an impairment which "substantially limits one or more major life activities," such as learning. A 504 Plan may include curriculum modifications and/or classroom accommodations.
What treatment options are available?
Most authorities recommend a multi-modal treatment approach. This may include a combination of the following:
- Behavior management techniques at home and at school
- Classroom accommodations
How can parents help?
- Establish clear rules, limits, and expectations. Consistently use positive reinforcement and logical consequences.
- Collaborate with your child's teacher regarding curriculum modifications and accommodations.
- Look for opportunities to support and celebrate your child's strengths, especially in the non-academic areas.
- Become knowledgeable about AD/HD by reading, attending conferences and seeking support groups.
- Depending on your child's age, discuss the specifics of his/her AD/HD.
How can teachers help?
- Provide individual accommodations.
- Follow a consistent behavior management plan.
- Reinforce appropriate behavior in all situations.
- Work collaboratively with parents to support the student.
How does AD/HD affect adults?
Unlike children, who must attend school, adults with AD/HD have more freedom to choose the environment in which they work. Because their high energy levels often allow them to initiate and complete many tasks in a day, adults can be successful in many fields. Their creative ideas often bring fresh and welcome innovations.
Date reviewed: February 2005
All content Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999 Schwab Foundation for Learning
Schwab Foundation for Learning