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What is ADD or ADHD

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What is ADD or ADHD

Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, is a psychological term applied to anyone who meets the DSM IV diagnostic criteria for impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention. The diagnostic criteria are subjective and include behavior caused by a wide variety of factors, ranging from brain defects to allergies to giftedness.  ADD, as currently defined, is a highly subjective description, not a specific disease.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates three percent to five percent of kids have ADD, but some experts believe that figure could be as high as 10 percent.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problem of not being able to focus, being overactive, not being able control behavior, or a combination of these.  Clinicians diagnose ADHD for problems outside of the normal range for a person’s age and development.

If ADD/ADHD is preventing your child from learning at school or causing learning problems, then you the parent, must enforce your child’s rights and ensure that your child’s school is providing appropriate additional special education resources so that your child may receive meaningful educational benefit.  Children may have multiple issues in addition to ADD/ADHD, such as autism, intellectual disabilities, vision problems, auditory processing problems, etc.

The Special Education Law Firm (attorney Jennifer Guze Campbell) provides parents with incomes under $80,000 per year a full year of complete special education legal support for a flat rate of approximately $2,400 (click here to review ).

Danielle Alvarado is a special needs consultant (Advocate) who for a flat rate of approximately $600 will provide three months of special education school advocacy on behalf of a special needs child (click here to review).

There are multiple other special education attorneys and advocates that charge by the hour to provide legal representation and advocacy services (click here to review those attorneys and advocates).A.D.A.M.


ADD/ADHD usually begins in childhood but may continue into the adult years.  It is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder in children.  Clinicians diagnose ADD/ADHD much more often in boys than in girls.

It is not clear what causes ADD/ADHD.  A combination of genes and environmental factors likely plays a role in the development of the condition.  Imaging studies suggest that the brains of children with ADD/ADHD are different from those of children without ADD/ADHD.

Three Symptoms

Symptoms of ADD/ADHD fall into three groups:

  • Not being able to focus (inattentiveness)
  • Being extremely active (hyperactivity)
  • Not being able to control behavior (impulsivity)

Some people with ADD/ADHD have mainly inattentive symptoms.  Some have mainly hyperactive and impulsive symptoms.  Others have a combination of different symptom types.  Individuals with mostly inattentive symptoms have attention deficit disorder (ADD).  These individuals tend to be less disruptive and clinicians often do not diagnose these individuals with ADHD.

Inattentive Symptoms

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Has difficulty keeping attention during tasks or play
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or chores and tasks
  • Has problems organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork)
  • Often loses toys, assignments, pencils, books, or tools needed for tasks or activities
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity Symptoms

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
  • Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations
  • Has problems playing or working quietly
  • Is often “on the go,” acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talks excessively

Impulsivity Symptoms

  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others (butts into conversations or games)


A health care professional should evaluate individual suspected of ADD/ADHD.  There is no test that can make a diagnosis of or exclude a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD.  Clinicians diagnose ADD/ADHD on the pattern of ADD/ADHD symptoms.  When the person with suspected ADD/ADHD is a child, parents and teachers are usually involved during the evaluation process.

Most children with ADD/ADHD have at least one other developmental or mental health problem, such as a mood, anxiety or substance use disorder; a learning disability; or a tic disorder.  A doctor can help determine whether these other conditions are present.

School districts use a different set of tests to determine if a child’s ADD/ADHD is interfering with learning.

School districts do not accept medical tests as conclusive evidence of learning problems.  School districts routinely deny additional resources unless parents enforce their children’s rights to receive an education.


Treating ADD/ADHD is a partnership between the health care provider and the patient.  If the patient is a child, parents and often teachers are involved.  For treatment to work, it is important to:

  • Set specific, appropriate goals.
  • Start medicine and/or talk  therapy.
  • Follow-up regularly with the doctor to check on goals, results, and any side effects of medicines.      During these visits, information should be gathered from the patient and      if relevant, parents and teachers.

If treatment does not seem to work, the health care provider will likely:

  • Confirm the person has ADD/ADHD
  • Check for medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms
  • Make sure the treatment plan is being followed


Medicine combined with behavioral treatment often works best.  Clinicians use several different ADD/ADHD medicines alone or in combination.  The health care provider will decide which medicine meets the person’s symptoms and needs.

Psycho stimulants (also known as stimulants) are the most commonly used ADD/ADHD medicines.  The drugs called stimulants actually have a calming effect in people with ADD/ADHD.

Follow the health care provider’s instructions on how to take ADD/ADHD medicine.

Some ADD/ADHD medicines have side effects.  If the person has side effects, contact the health care provider right away.  The dosage or the medicine itself may need to be changed.


Therapy for both the patient and if relevant, the family, can help everyone understand and gain control of the stressful feelings related to ADD/ADHD.

Behavioral therapy is a common type of ADD/ADHD therapy.  Therapy teaches children and parents healthy behaviors and teaches how to manage disruptive behaviors.  For mild cases of ADD/ADHD, behavioral therapy alone (without medicine) can sometimes be effective.

Support groups can help the patient and family connect with others who have similar problems.

Other tips to help a child with ADD/ADHD include:

  • Talk regularly with the child’s  teacher.
  • Maintain a consistent daily schedule, including regular times for homework, meals, and outdoor      activities.  Make changes to the schedule in advance and not at the last moment.
  • Limit distractions in the child’s environment.
  • Ensure the child gets a healthy, varied diet, with plenty of fiber and basic nutrients.
  • Ensure the child gets enough sleep.
  • Praise and reward good behavior.
  • Provide clear and consistent rules for the child.

There is little proof that alternative treatments for ADD/ADHD such as herbs, supplements, and chiropractic are helpful.

Expectation (prognosis)

ADD/ADHD is a long-term, chronic condition.  Untreated ADD/ADHD may lead to:

  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse
  • Severe School Problems
  • Problems Keeping a Job
  • Illegal Activities

One third to one half of children with ADD/ADHD continue to have symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity as adults.

Calling Your Health Care Provider

Call the doctor if you or your child’s school staff suspect ADD/ADHD. You should also tell the doctor about:

  • Problems at home, school, and with peer relationships
  • Side effects of ADD/ADHD medicine
  • Signs of depression


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