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What is ADHD


What is ADHD?


The generally accepted definition as established in the DSM IV of Attention Deficit Disorder (now referred to as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) distinguishes between three types of attention disorders:

  1. The type primarily characterized by inattention (difficulty sustaining attention to the task)

  2. The type characterized by hyperactivity-impulsivity (excessive fidgeting or talking, difficulty refraining from saying whatever or doing whatever comes to mind)

  3. The "combined type" in which both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity are present


Diagnosis is made by a psychiatrist, a doctoral-level clinical or educational psychologist or a combination thereof (the LD program cannot make this diagnosis but does give referrals to qualified practitioners).

The following five criteria must be met in order for a diagnosis to be made:

  • The person must display a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than his/her peers.

  • Some of these hyperactive or inattentive behaviors must have been present before the age of 7 years.

  • Some impairment due to the symptoms must be present in at least two settings (for example workplace and school).

  • There must be clear evidence of interference with developmentally appropriate social, academic or occupational functioning.

  • The "disturbance" is not better explained by another disorder schizophrenia, depression, autism, chronic anxiety, etc.

The diagnosis is made through the process of interview, observation, questionnaires. Complete medical, developmental and educational histories are taken and evaluated, along with impressions from "significant others" in the person’s life.

Common Characteristics of ADHD

The following are some typical characteristics of persons with AD/HD. This is only a partial list, and not meant to be diagnostic.

  • Often seems inattentive to details, makes frequent errors in school work
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention
  • May seem not to listen when spoken to directly
  • Difficulty with "following through"
  • Fails to complete tasks
  • Has trouble organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Loses things necessary for tasks
  • Is easily distracted by the environment
  • Frequently forgets appointments or other daily activities
  • Fidgets or squirms restlessly
  • Inability to engage in leisure activities quietly
  • Is always "on the go"
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions are completed
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others

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