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What are the Signs of Attention Deficit Disorder?

What are the Signs of Attention Deficit Disorder?

By Dr. Kenneth Shore

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a problem characterized by significant difficulties in sustaining one’s attention. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a variation of this problem, referring to individuals who not only have problems concentrating but also have a very high activity level. For the purposes of this article, these very similar disorders will be discussed as a single problem.

ADD is much more common with boys than with girls. Experts estimate that three to five percent of children have this disorder. This means that teachers can expect to have on average one child with ADD in their classroom every year. Children with ADD often have accompanying organizational and learning problems that can make school frustrating for the student and challenging for the teacher. If these problems are not addressed, they can lead to social and emotional difficulties.

The hallmark of a child with ADD is that he has difficulty focusing. Keep in mind that children can have difficulty concentrating for reasons other than an attention deficit. They may be anxious, upset, ill or simply bored. It is important that you try to determine whether the attentional problem is due to ADD or to another reason.

The following are characteristics of a child with attention deficit disorder. A child need not display all of these characteristics to be considered ADD. Indeed, some children with ADD are much less active physically than their peers. A child with attention deficit disorder tends to:

  • have problems concentrating for long periods
  • be restless and fidgety
  • be in almost constant motion
  • be easily distracted by sights and sounds
  • act impulsively without thinking through the consequences
  • be impatient while waiting his turn so that he may blurt out an answer
  • rush through schoolwork, resulting in careless errors
  • have trouble settling down and beginning an assignment
  • have difficulty keeping track of his school materials
  • not finish assigned work because of difficulty focusing
  • appear to be lost or daydreaming
  • become frustrated very easily
  • have difficulty understanding multi-step directions
  • have poor handwriting

Because an attention deficit can be caused by a variety of problems, it is not always easy to diagnose this disorder. Indeed, there is no one test or procedure that can definitively indicate the presence of ADD. Diagnosing this order requires information from various sources, which may include the careful observations of the teacher and parent, the completion of a behavior checklist by the teacher, psychological and educational testing, and a medical examination.

Many children with attention deficits are treated with medication. While medication may allow some students to perform better in school, keep in mind that medication does not teach. It only makes students more available for learning because they are better able to focus. Moreover, while medication may lessen some of the behavioral problems, it will probably not eliminate them.

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