Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (usually referred to as ADHD) is the most common childhood condition affecting behavior and learning. The majority of those with this disorder exhibit the symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. However, a purely inattentive form of ADHD also exists and often remains undiagnosed because the more obvious symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity are not present. Research has clearly determined there is a neurological basis for ADHD, debunking the myth that it is simply a matter of poor parenting or of a stubborn child who is choosing to misbehave.
At one time it was thought that children outgrew ADHD, but it is now clear that for many individuals the symptoms of this disorder persist into adulthood and continue to cause difficulties in the workplace and in relationships. There is a strong genetic component and consequently it is not uncommon for both a child and parent to be affected by this disorder. Unfortunately many individuals are not formally diagnosed with ADHD until they reach adulthood, by which time they have often developed secondary emotional issues as a result of the frustration they have experienced throughout their lives.
There are no tests that can determine whether someone has ADHD, and consequently the diagnosis must be based on the professional judgment of a clinician who is familiar with the characteristics of this disorder. A psychological assessment can provide important information to assist in this process. Such an evaluation typically involves the gathering of historical information and obtaining subjective impressions from parents, teachers, or spouses. A variety of behavior rating scales may be used for this purpose. Psychological, neuropsychological, and educational testing is utilized to look for patterns of test scores that are consistent with a diagnosis of ADHD. Test results can also be useful in identifying any strengths or weaknesses that need to be considered when developing an overall intervention plan, and in determining whether there is a co-existing learning disability.
While ADHD itself is not a learning disability, approximately 40 percent of those with ADHD are also afflicted with some type of learning disorder. Finally, during the process of a psychological assessment other conditions that can mimic the symptoms of ADHD are ruled out. These include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. A medical evaluation is also required to rule out other conditions that can can cause symptoms similar to those associated with ADHD.
Given that ADHD is a neurological disorder it is not surprising that the most effective form of treatment is the use of medication which must be prescribed by a qualified physician. In addition to medical treatment there are a number of strategies and techniques that help affected individuals function more effectively in school, in the work place, and in the home. In particular, students with ADHD can derive considerable benefit from classroom and exam accommodations that are designed to minimize the impact of the disorder on their learning.
As with any disorder, an accurate diagnosis is essential before an effective treatment plan can be implemented.