You likely have heard (and even use) the terms ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder - and ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Currently, ADHD is the accurate term, with 3 subtypes. Primarily Inattentive Type (which previously would have been known as ADD), Primarily hyperactive/impulsive type (what many people think of as ADHD), and combined type - indicating both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity are present.
Do I have ADHD? Does my child have ADHD?
There honestly is no reliable self-evaluation to determine if you or your child have ADHD. Children over 7 years old who may be exhibiting symptoms of severe inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity may be exhibiting ADHD. Taking into consideration normal development, especially for younger children who benefit from movement and breaking up long tasks into smaller chunks, some children have significant difficulty paying attention or remaining relatively still. They must be demonstrating behaviors across settings (not just at home or at school, for example), and the behaviors must significantly impact some aspect of their life - typically academics, or participation in the community, or for adults, difficulty at work.
Kids who have significant sleeping difficulties (whether it takes a long time to fall asleep, difficulty staying asleep, snoring/Apnea, or other sleep difficulties) may demonstrate behaviors that look like ADHD. They have difficulty paying attention, they may have impulsive behaviors, and they may appear tired all the time. It is often important to rule out sleep issues when considering whether a child (or adult) has ADHD.
In addition, individuals who spend a significant time using screen devices (phones, iPads, computers etc.) can also demonstrate behaviors that might look like ADHD. They are so used to the visual stimulation of a screen that they cannot focus when the visual stimuli are not there. It can be important to trial limiting of screen time and engaging in learning and leisure/play in other forms to see if the behaviors can be reduced.
Symptoms/behaviors associated with ADHD may include:
- significant difficulty focusing for long periods of time (this may be inconsistent as individuals with ADHD can hyperfocus at times as well)
- significant difficulty recalling simple information
- high activity level even when the environment suggests less activity
- acting before thinking
These behaviors can be considered typical and also be associated with other disorders, such as learning disabilities, language disorders, etc. A thorough evaluation is imperative to an accurate diagnosis.
I have experience with children and adults of all ages and understanding typical attention and activity level versus concerns with ADHD. Through computer based tools, rating scales, observations, and/or interviews with parents, partners/spouses, and school staff and colleagues (if warranted/release is signed), I can help identify the presence of ADHD that is impacting educational performance in school (including adults in college or graduate school), as well as for adults in the workforce. A release to speak with school personnel or other individuals as well as to gather rating scales and other input from school will be required as identification of ADHD requires symptoms to be observed in multiple settings as well as significantly impact social, educational and/or occupational life.
I do not evaluate children under 7 for ADHD. Although they may exhibit inattention and hyperactivity at young ages, this may be typical development and is very difficult to determine typical versus disorder. I may provide more general assessments that discuss attention or hyperactivity in comparison to similar aged peers and may recommend follow up with a medical professional (to rule out sleep disorders for example).
ADHD assessments are usually part of a more comprehensive individualized evaluation.