Does my child have ADHD or is there something more going on?

Many people think of Attention Deficit as the proverbial hyperactive child in the classroom, running and jumping around with lots of energy and enthusiasm, but ADHD is much more complex. The core symptoms that define ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Learning Enhancement Centers knows that not all kids (or adults) with ADHD will have these symptoms in the same way or to the same degree, and you will certainly see differences in the way the symptoms present themselves.

Hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention are really just the tip of the iceberg for kids who have ADHD. There can be additional impairments that may not be as obvious. With the hyperactive example, it may be that the individual has trouble slowing down enough to process information accurately. It might also be that he processes information so slowly that he has already acted before thinking through the consequences.

For others, it may be that the individual is having difficulty processing what he hears. It can be like having a bad cell phone connection – getting “a piece here” and “a piece there.” If someone is having a hard time hearing the other person, they can ask to call them back when they are in a better location and getting a clearer signal. Unfortunately, individuals can’t say that when they are listening to a lecture or speaking with someone else. So, they might tune out or have difficulty staying focused on the conversation.

What if you went to the doctor because your foot hurt? He prescribes morphine and sends you on your way. The pain does subside with the medicine but, had he looked at your foot, he would have seen there was a nail in it. Wouldn’t it have been better to remove the nail – the cause of the pain in the first place?

The same is true with attention problems. It is important to recognize that there are many possible causes of attention challenges. The outside symptoms might be that the child is energetic and active or that the individual is always daydreaming. The individual might truly have ADHD or there might be another cause of the attention challenges. This is why an evaluation that looks at all of the possible causes of the attention challenges is so important. In addition to the typical checklist that parents and teachers fill out, students can also do a computerized continuous performance test. At Learning Enhancement Centers, we evaluate five possible causes of attention challenges. While we are not opposed to medicine, we feel that it shouldn’t be the first thing that is tried. If the cause of the attention problems is due to auditory processing, for example, medicine isn’t going to help.

In our next few posts, we will discuss other possible causes of attention challenges and how to address them.