Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is an old name for what is now currently referred to as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a common neurodevelopmental disorder of childhood characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms may continue into adulthood.
You or your child may have ADD if symptoms are present such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention, which are detailed in the table below.
What Causes ADD?
The cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (previously called attention deficit disorder, or ADD) is unknown, but genetics are believed to play a role.
Other possible causes and risk factors for ADHD include:
- Brain injury
- Certain environmental exposures (e.g., lead) during pregnancy or at a young age
- Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy
- Premature delivery
- Low birth weight
How Is ADD Diagnosed?
There is no single test used to diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), (previously called attention deficit disorder, or ADD). Other possible conditions that can have similar symptoms must first be ruled out. Tests may include a medical exam and hearing and vision tests.
The diagnostic criteria defined by the American Psychiatric Association for ADHD includes:
- Symptoms must be present in more than one setting (e.g., school and home)
- Symptoms must persist for at least six months
- Symptoms must be present before the age of 12 years
- Symptoms must impair function in academic, social, or occupational activities
- Symptoms must be excessive for the age of the child
- Other mental disorders that could account for the symptoms must be excluded
What Is the Treatment for ADD?
Treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), (previously called attention deficit disorder, or ADD), is usually a combination of behavior therapy and medication.
Behavioral treatments usually are recommended for preschool-aged children before medications are prescribed. School-aged children with ADHD usually do well with stimulant medicine plus behavioral treatments and counseling if needed. Medications do not cure ADHD, and behavioral treatments are usually needed to help a child learn to follow rules, stay motivated, and work well with others.
Medications used to treat ADHD include:
- Methylphenidate (Concerta, Focalin, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin, Daytrana)
- Amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Vyvanse)
- Despite being stimulants, these medications do not cause children with ADHD to become more stimulated, but rather they work to improve attention, concentration, and self-control
- Atomoxetine (Strattera) is a nonstimulant medicine used as an alternative
Behavioral treatments for ADHD include:
- Keeping distractions to a minimum
- Maintaining a schedule
- Setting reachable and clear goals
- Rewarding positive behavior
- Limiting choices
- Providing specific places for the child to keep school work, toys, and clothes
- Using charts and checklists to help the child stay focused on the task at hand
- Taking physical activity breaks during tasks that require attention
- Finding activities such as sports or hobbies where the child can be successful
- Using calm discipline such as time outs, distractions, or removing the child from the situation
In school, teachers may be able to help students with ADHD by:
- Writing homework assignments down
- Having the teacher allow the child extra time to complete school work
- Providing a daily report card for parents to help monitor the child's symptoms and evaluate how well the current ADHD treatment plan is working
- Having the child sit near the front of the classroom
- Giving the child a private signal when they veer “off-task”
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