It’s not Always ADD/ADHD

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Ever since ADD/ADHD has become such a buzzword, it has stirred up a great deal of controversy and become a continuously researched condition.  We now have a much better idea of what ADD is, how it relates to  poor functioning of the prefrontal cortex and what behaviors it elicits.  The problem is, most of us, including many physicians, teachers and parents, are only familiar with a few of the most common symptoms.  There are also myths and misinformation that need addressing.  The purpose of this post is to begin to lend some intelligent discourse to the subject.

As it turns out, many other conditions also can create similar symptoms to ADD/ADHD.  An important rule to keep in mind when considering the possibility that a child may have ADD/ADHD, is the fact that it is ongoing.  One does not suddenly begin to have ADD at 12.    What is possible, is that a child who has mild symptoms which do not include hyperactivity, may begin to display a pronounced attention deficit or frustration and acting out, as the school workload, specific subjects and conditions requiring more working memory become part of his school day.  A child entering first or second grade may have been able to handle preschool and kindergarten, but is totally overwhelmed with second grade.  More will be written on these pages about the symptoms and behaviors connected to  ADD/ADHD in both children as well as adults and what can be done to minimize them.  The purpose of this post, however, is to help readers become aware of what else looks like ADD so that the proper diagnosis and treatment can be obtained.

Below is a list of some of the most common conditions that are overlooked in favor of a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD.

*Asthma, Allergies, Respiratory Difficulties– Problems breathing, over a long period of time, can affect the child’s ability to concentrate and may cause irritability.

*APD- Auditory Processing Disorder- is a language processing problem which presents with many of  the symptoms of ADD.

*Depression- Clinical depression in children often presents as “hyper”rather than “down” behavior.

*BPD- BiPolar Disorder and ADHD have very many overlapping symptoms.  The difference is in the duration and intensity of outbursts. Children with ADHD are not primarily depressed.

*Diabetes/Hypoglycemia– Blood sugar levels can effect concentration and activity levels.

*Hearing/Vision Difficulties– Poor vision and/or hearing can cause inattention as well as increased behavior problems.

*Learning Difficulties– While about 30% of ADD children are also diagnosed with some type of learning disorder, some types of learning problems canbe mistaken for ADD.

*Social Pragmatic Disorder– has most of the social difficulties of ADD, but not the problems of distraction.

*High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder- is often mistaken for ADD/ADHD at initial assessment.

*Psychosocial/Environmental Factors– Family issues such as death, birth, divorce or financial problems can cause anxiety, stress and mild depression which can look like ADHD.  Change of environment, i.e., a recent or         upcoming move can disorient some children.


Rule of thumb: When a child does not comply or do things as other children do, try to understand why.  Do not automatically assume motive.  Look for patterns, triggers, etc.  Assuming motive will effect your attitude and behavior towards the child, usually negatively.Conceptions of what the child should do as well as how s/he should do it can begin a power struggle that is totally counter-productive.


Diagnosis:  Only a trained professional in the field of neurology or child development should be considered when seeking a diagnosis.  The most egregious diagnoses are made by teaching staff who report wild or “overly active” behavior as ADHD.   It is important6 for teachers and school staff to report the troubling behavior to the parents.  The parents then must consult with a medical professional.  ONE DOES NOT OUTGROW ADD/ADHD- but rather learns how to make adjustments to prevent various difficulties from impeding on their day-to-day functioning.


Co Morbidity:  To make matters more complicated, it is possible for some-one to qualify for one of the above conditions and also have ADD.  That is why it is so important to hear from the people who see the child all day long (teachers and parents) who can describe behavior that is concerning.  If testing is suggested as a way to get a better picture of the child’s areas of strengths and weaknesses, it is prudent to do just that.  The combination of test results, including MOXO, combined with in viva reports of caregivers, combine to help narrow down the problem as well as how to proceed.  Either specific therapies, medication or both can then begin.   Often, parents request parenting sessions to help familiarize them with their child’s specific needs at home, in school and socially.

More on ADD/ADHD in future posts.










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