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What is Attention Deficit Disorder?

Jan 15, 2022 Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a neurological disorder that causes a wide range of behavior problems that may include attending to instruction, focusing on schoolwork, keeping up with assignments, following instructions, completing tasks and social interaction.

Children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) may also start showing signs of reading and academic problems once they enter kindergarten. 

I have a great number of parents who ask me what the difference is between the three different ADD types (yes, there are three), and what can they do at home to help their child. This blog addresses those very issues and provides more insight into the disorder.

What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?

Kids with ADD may have learning disabilities and are often at risk for repeated disciplinary problems in schools. These are the kids that will say, “I knew it was wrong, but I just couldn’t help it.” In fact, adults and peers alike may conclude that such students are lazy because of their inattention to tasks and failure to follow through with assignments.

While ADD is extremely common, misperceptions about the disorder continue to circulate. Hyperactivity can also be a component of ADD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and includes behavioral problems.

attention deficit disorder

Types of ADD/ADHD

There are three types of ADD/ADHD that cause similar symptoms, and all have an element of attention issues, but the main differences are the other behaviors that accompany their inability to focus.

  1. ADHD-HI – Children diagnosed with this disorder are not only going to have difficulty paying attention in school, but they may also be hyperactive and impulsive. These are the kids who just can’t sit still no matter what you try, and say/do the first thing that comes to mind (even if it’s a bad idea); 
  2. ADHD-I – This disorder has a higher incidence in females. They are extremely inattentive, especially when there are multiple distractions; 
  3. ADHD-Combined You probably guessed it by the name of this type of ADHD, but yes, the kids diagnosed with this type of ADHD have symptoms of ALL three disorders. Kids diagnosed with ADHD-Combined have the highest incidence of disciplinary problems if not diagnosed and treated.


If you suspect your child has ADD with or without hyperactivity, talk to your child’s school counselor, teacher, or physician about appropriate treatment. If you have any concerns, begin these discussions today.

Your pediatrician may recommend seeing a child psychologist who can do formal testing on your child to see if she fits the criteria for ADD, and where she happens to be on the spectrum. Not only can this testing help differentiate ADD from other issues causing difficulty with school work, but is a part of following a child’s response to interventions over time.

If your child receives a diagnosis, doctors most likely recommend medication to control symptoms. In fact, medication is prescribed in 88% of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. There are several different types of medication available so if one type isn’t working, your doctor will most likely switch to another brand.

It’s important to remember to have your child rechecked he hits puberty. Their bodies will change a lot during this time and just because a medication has worked since they were five, does not mean it will continue to work once they hit this milestone in their life. 

Medication is not the only treatment option that is available. Most doctors will tell you to try behavior modification training. A counselor who specializes in ADD/ADHD can help you with this. You can also check out dietary changes.

Research shows that protein is important for school-aged children. They should be getting between 28-45 grams of protein a day, which most kids aren’t getting. Some research has shown that elimination diets such as dairy, wheat/gluten, eggs, and corn, have shown positive changes for children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. 

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Fear of Labeling

I have been in many IEP meetings where I have ruled out Auditory Processing or Language Processing Disorders and have come to the conclusion that a child has ADD or ADHD. The reaction I get from parents is an overwhelming feeling of sadness and fear. Some parents are frightened that if they have their child tested for ADD she will be labeled.

As a parent, however, you can do a lot to prevent this from happening. It’s important to talk to your child so that she knows she is not doing anything wrong in struggling with ADD, but instead, that it is up to you as a parent to help her learn the skills that will help her learn as easily as possible given her unique makeup.

Classroom Modifications

If your child has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, it’s important that they receive an IEP and are classified as “Other Health Impaired.” With this diagnosis, they can receive several modifications in their classroom settings in order to aid in academic success. These modifications can include:

  1. Extended test-taking time with resource assistance to stay on track;
  2. Receiving extra time to respond; 
  3. Get eye contact before proceeding with tasks;
  4. Seating – in front of the speaker;
  5. Tests: give word banks or allow the use of formulas;
  6. Online textbooks or an extra set of textbooks to reduce missed assignments;
  7. Written assignments along with verbal for poor memory.

Although it can be difficult at times, any distractions should be minimized. This goes for the classroom and the home environment. This is particularly true if the child is supposed to be studying.

In addition, praise and acknowledge positive behaviors that are occurring. If your child sits for 15 minutes and studies, give them a break when asked. They will need these frequent breaks to give their minds a chance to decompress. 

Movement is key in these kids. Allow them to do movement breaks in the classroom or at home. Exercise elevates dopamine and norepinephrine levels, which are typically low in ADD/ADHD students, improves focus, self-control, and mood. 

Don’t be afraid to suggest some of these modifications when you meet with teachers or the Child Study Team. With the proper supports in place, your child will learn strategies to compensate for their areas of weakness!

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The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Blub Blub Inc. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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