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Attention-Defict/Hyperactivity Disorder

This is a disorder that begins in early childhood, before the age of 7, and is probably seen in about 5% of all children (That is about 1 child in 20, or 1 child in a classroom).  ADHD is characterized by problems in school, with teachers remarking that your child has problems with excessive talking, organization, concentration, paying attention, and completing his work.  The teachers may also note that your child has trouble sitting still, but this really isn’t the main problem.

 There is some good research that suggests that ADHD is actually a problem with impulse control, or the inability to inhibit responses that are verbal, physical or emotional.  Another way of looking at this is to say that your child has difficulties with rule-governed behavior, or with following any kind of rules.  Some researchers believe that ADHD children do not have internal dialogs with themselves, no “self-talk” which helps them stop and think before they act (Russell Barkley, 1998).  For more about his theory, go to the Scientific American website,, and look for the September, 1998, article by Dr. Barkley (you may have to order it online from the archives).  You can also check out Dr. Barkley's book on ADHD, Taking Charge of ADHD.

These children are also likely to have problems at home with finishing their homework, following directions, keeping track of their toys, shoes, socks, homework.  Again, they may or may not be seen as overactive or fidgety—remember, this is not really the root of the problem.

Treatment depends on the severity of the disorder.  Medication and behavioral interventions, at home and at school, are important in treating more serious cases.  In other, more moderate cases of ADHD, the behavioral interventions may all that are necessary to help the child get along with what may be a lifelong disability.  Psychologists and physicians work together in coordinating treatment for ADHD folks.

ADHD can continue into adulthood, and the same treatments work for them as well as for kids.  ADHD adults are at higher risk for problems in relationships, career,  finances and are more likely to have difficulty with alcohol or other substance abuse.