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How to tell the Difference between Add and ADHD in Children

Despite what the teachers and counselors seem to keep insisting, you know your own child. You know that your daughter isn’t stupid… but she just brought home yet another terrible report card, even after you made sure that she did all of her homework and studied for every single test. You know that your son isn’t disrespectful or inconsiderate… yet he has been detained for detention yet again for disrupting the classroom, even though he promised he would behave after the last incident. You are experiencing a constant tug-of-war of emotions. One second you are angry with the school, disappointed in your child, and ashamed as you wonder what you’ve done wrong. The next minute, as you see your child’s sincere tears of frustration and shame, you are absolutely positive that it’s not your child’s fault. In millions of children today, ADHD is the ugly monster that is causing so many problems for so many families. You must learn the symptoms, and you need to know how to recognize the difference between ADD and ADHD in children.


What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?


While most people know that ADD stands for “attention deficit disorder,” this term is now considered outdated by medical professionals. According to the DSM (the standard diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is now the proper diagnosis.


What makes it so confusing is that there are different subtypes of ADHD. Some children may be inattentive, while others are hyperactive and impulsive.


What used to be called ADD is now known as the inattentive type of ADHD. These children seem to struggle with concentrating and focusing, but they aren’t hyperactive or overly spontaneous. On the other hand, children with the hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD are constantly moving, unable to sit down, and can’t seem to control their impulses. The DSM also recognizes a third kind of ADHD: the combined type. Be aware that ADHD is actually a continuum. Few children have only ADD or only ADHD. Most children are a combination of both.


Children with ADHD, inattentive type


These are the children who can’t focus or concentrate. They don’t usually get into trouble at school. In fact, they are often overlooked because they don’t talk or run around enough to attract unwanted attention from teachers. They even seem as if they are frequently paying attention to the lesson, but in reality they are thinking about many other things besides their schoolwork. Their parents and teachers often assume that they are just being lazy or rebellious, and these children are often chided that they are “not living up to their full potential.”


Adults will pressure these children, saying things like “Just try harder!” or “If you would only listen!” Everyone is demanding that they accomplish something which is literally impossible for them. After years of failing, even the most intelligent children often start believing that they are simply too idiotic or too abnormal to succeed. Their self-esteem plummets. They stop trying and simply give up; sadly, their true potential is never realized.


According to the Mayo Clinic, you can often see most of the following symptoms in children with inattentive-type ADHD:

*Does your child constantly forget things or lose important items? Does he seem distracted and fail to listen, even when someone speaks directly to him?

*Does he often fail to complete schoolwork and household chores? Does he leave tasks incomplete?

*Does he make careless mistakes that seem easily avoidable? Does he ignore details?

*Does he hate tasks or events that require sustained mental discipline? Is he always daydreaming while he is supposed to be working?


Children with ADHD, hyperactive/impulsive type


Children with hyperactive/impulsive ADHD are easier to identify. They are the ones who are way too active. They are constantly moving, jumping around, and standing up. They are often impulsive in their actions, and they never consider the consequences before they act.

At school, they’re always in trouble for distracting and disrupting classrooms. They don’t raise their hands when they shout out an answer. They can’t seem to sit at their desks for long before they are tapping their pencils, fidgeting, and finally leaping up to wander around the room.


If this describes your child, you have probably overheard other parents smugly whispering, “If she were my child, I’d set her straight! She needs some good, old-fashioned discipline.” This is not true. Children with hyperactive/impulsive ADHD aren’t trying to misbehave; their brains are actually not functioning like they should be.


According to WebMD, you can usually see most of the following symptoms in children with hyperactive/impulsive-type ADHD:


*Does your child fidget with her hands and feet; does she squirm in her chair? Does she have trouble remaining seated for more than a few minutes?

*Does she interrupt people, blurt out answers at school, and display an inability to wait her turn? Does she talk endlessly or speak way too rapidly, without pausing for breath?

*Does she climb things or run around when it’s completely inappropriate? Does it seem almost impossible for her to play quietly?


If you suspect your child has ADD or ADHD


Keep in mind that if your child has a lot of these characteristics, knowing the difference between ADD and ADHD can be critical in his treatment. Inattentive ADHD and hyperactive ADHD involve different lobes of the brain, and each case is different. Find a doctor whom you trust. Most importantly, follow your instincts when it comes to your own children. Sometimes even well-meaning people – whether they are doctors, co-workers, or friends – can cause parents to doubt themselves. Always remember that no one knows or loves your child like you do; never let anyone intimidate you into ignoring what you feel is true in your heart.