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Uncovering Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)

04 Oct 2016 Dr. Mark Prohaska
October is ADHD Awareness Month. October is ADHD Awareness Month.

As a parent, you want to ensure the best for your children.  You take them to the most trusted doctors and pediatricians, you send them to reputable schools, and you protect their physical well-being.  However, many parents are not aware of one of the most common difficulties facing children and adolescents; Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD).

 Children with AD/HD

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), AD/HD affects approximately 4.5 million children and adolescents in the United States alone.  Children with this disorder are often forgetful, easily distracted, and have difficulty focusing, following directions, completing tasks or assignments, taking turns, sitting still, etc.  Because of these difficulties, AD/HD can negatively impact a child’s behavior, social life, and school performance.  For example, parents of children with AD/HD report that their children have problems with peers nearly three times as often than parents of children without the disorder.  Moreover, parents of children with AD/HD report that their children are nearly 10 times more likely to have difficulties that interfere with friendships (CDC).  Frustration over strained peer-relationships can translate into stress, poor behavior at home and lower grades in school, as well as anger and aggression, decreased self-esteem, and feelings of worthlessness.  As a child with AD/HD grows older, he or she is more likely to drop out of school, be involved in motor vehicle accidents, engage in promiscuous activities, and abuse drugs or alcohol.

Subtypes of AD/HD

Although most parents are somewhat familiar with the existence of AD/HD, many do not realize that there are several subtypes of this disorder.  The type that most think about, and the one that typically gets noticed, is the Hyperactive – Impulsive Type, as these are the children who are overactive, fidgety, talkative and present significant behavioral challenges to teachers and parents.  However, there is also an Inattentive Type of AD/HD, that is characterized by difficulty organizing and completing tasks, focusing on details and paying attention to instructions or conversations.  Although underlying distractibility and forgetfulness can have a significant impact on a child, the absence of behavioral issues frequently causes this subtype to be overlooked or ignored.  Finally, there is the Combined Type of AD/HD, which presents with a combination of the behavioral and attention deficits from the other two subtypes. 

Dr. Mark Prohaska of Tuscaloosa’s Neuropsychology Clinic works with ADHD, brain dysfunction, memory disorders, stress management, the neurobiology of addictions, brain health and aging.


AD/HD: Other Difficulties

Furthermore, many parents do not realize that AD/HD is frequently accompanied other difficulties such as a learning disability or emotional dysfunction (e.g. anxiety, depression, etc.).  According to the CDC, roughly five percent of children have AD/HD without a learning disability, five percent have a learning disability without AD/HD, and four percent have both AD/HD and a learning disability.  Therefore, the attention issue may be only one piece of a more complex puzzle that requires intervention, necessitating a thorough evaluation to accurately identify all the issues that need to be addressed if the child is to reach his or her full potential.

AD/HD in Alabama

Interestingly, the state of Alabama has the highest AD/HD diagnostic rate in the country (11 percent of the population), though this may merely reflect a high rate of misdiagnosis.  Accurate identification of the disorder is essential for effective treatment; not only does AD/HD need to be diagnosed or ruled out, but other disorders that commonly affect children and may overlap the symptoms of AD/HD, including learning disabilities, sensory processing deficits, and underlying emotional problems, need to be identified and addressed.  Unfortunately, inadequate assessments lead to many children being misdiagnosed with AD/HD, resulting in the child being treated for a disorder he or she does not even have, to the exclusion of the identification and treatment of the actual problem. 

Only with an accurate diagnosis can meaningful and effective interventions be developed.  Untreated, AD/HD poses significant difficulties.  However, with proper diagnosis, treatment, and intervention, the impact of this disorder can be minimized and interventions put in place that will help the child to achieve up to his or her full potential. 

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