We know: Attention Deficit Disorder Facts

What is attention deficit disorder?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years. It is hard for these children to control their behavior and/or pay attention. It is estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children have ADHD, or approximately 2 million children in the United States.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

The principal characteristics of ADHD are hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention.

  • Hyperactive children always seem to be "on the go" or constantly in motion. They dash around touching or playing with whatever is in sight, or talk incessantly. Sitting still at dinner or during a school lesson or story can be a difficult task.
  • Impulsive children seem unable to curb their immediate reactions or think before they act. They will often blurt out inappropriate comments, display their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for the later consequences of their conduct.
  • Inattention. Children who are inattentive have a hard time keeping their minds on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes. If they are doing something they really enjoy, they have no trouble paying attention. But focusing deliberate, conscious attention to organizing and completing a task or learning something new is difficult.

Tell me more about the signs of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention

Some signs of hyperactivity-impulsivity are:

  1. Feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming while seated
  2. Running, climbing, or leaving a seat in situations where sitting or quiet behavior is expected
  3. Blurting out answers before hearing the whole question
  4. Having difficulty waiting in line or taking turns

Some signs of inattention are:

  1. Often becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds
  2. Often failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes
  3. Rarely following instructions carefully and completely losing or forgetting things like toys, or pencils, books, and tools needed for a task
  4. Often skipping from one uncompleted activity to another.

What causes ADHD?

ADHD does not seem to be caused just by social factors or child-rearing methods. Most substantiated causes appear to fall in the realm of neurobiology and genetics.

Who diagnoses ADHD?

Families often start by expressing their concerns to their pediatrician, who may do the diagnosis, or refer them to someone who can. Ideally, the diagnosis should be made by a professional with training in ADHD, such as a child psychiatrist or psychologist, a developmental/behavioral pediatrician, or a behavioral neurologist.

What about treatment?

At present, there are both behavioral and medication treatments available. Studies indicate that a combination of the two can result in improvements. However, each child's needs and personal history should be discussed with a professional to work out the best treatment.

What drugs are available?

The medications that seem to be the most effective are a class of drugs known as stimulants. Following is a list of the stimulants, their trade (or brand) names, and their generic names. "Approved age" means that the drug has been tested and found safe and effective in children of that age.

Trade NameGeneric NameApproved Age
Adderallamphetamine3 and older
Concertamethylphenidate6 and older
Cylert* pemoline6 and older
Dexedrinedextroamphetamine3 and older
Dextrostatdextroamphetamine6 and older
Focalindexmethylphenidate6 and older
MetadateERmethylphenidate6 and older
Metadate CDmethylphenidate6 and older
Ritalin methylphenidate6 and older
Ritalin SRmethylphenidate6 and older
Ritalin LAmethylphenidate6 and older
*Because of its potential for serious side effects affecting the liver, Cylert should not ordinarily be considered as first-line drug therapy for ADHD.

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