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What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder related to learning disabilities; however, each must be diagnosed and treated separately. It is estimated that 18% to 40% of individuals with ADHD have associated learning disabilities.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV, 1994) lists the following criteria for identifying Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:

 A. Either (1) or (2)
   (1) six (or more) of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:
      (a) often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
      (b) often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
      (c) often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
      (d) often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
      (e) often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
      (f) often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
      (g) often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
      (h) is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
      (i) is often forgetful in daily activities
    (2) six (or more) of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:
      (a) often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
      (b) often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
      (c) often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
      (d) often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
      (e) is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
      (f) often talks excessively
      (g) often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
      (h) often has difficulty awaiting turn
      (i) often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
  B. Some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms that caused impairment were present before age 7 years
  C. Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g. At school [or work] and at home).
  D. There must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.
  E. The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

Who Has ADHD?

ADHD appears to run in families, occurs in people of every level of intelligence, and is five to seven times more common in boys. The most common learning problems seen in children and adults with ADHD are dysgraphia (difficulty with writing), dyslexia (difficulty with reading) and Gerstmann’s Syndrome

What Can Be Done?

  • Arrange for an evaluation to determine whether ADHD is present and the appropriate course of action.
  • Medication (stimulants, antidepressants and Clonidine) are commonly used in the treatment of ADHD.
  • Parents and teachers can help by:
    • Becoming informed
    • Providing consistency — persons with ADHD do not deal well with change
    • Helping the child with ADHD to organize his/her time, school work, and work; break tasks into small components
    • Providing a quiet study area free from distractions; place students with ADHD in front of classroom to avoid distractions


National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)


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