Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affect a child’s ability to concentrate, to learn and to maintain a normal level of activity. According to the American Psychiatric Association, childhood ADD is shown in children who display an inappropriate attention span, are too impulsive and sometimes are deemed hyperactive given their age. Childhood ADD can be diagnosed either with or without hyperactivity. Childhood ADD affects from three to 10 percent of all children in America. Some studies estimate that about 20 percent of the population will eventually be diagnosed with ADD. Childhood ADD is about 10 times more common in boys
Childhood ADD often develops before the age of seven but is most often diagnosed when the child is between ages eight and 10. The younger the child is when diagnosed, the more serious forms of ADD they are likely to exhibit. In reverse, when older children are diagnosed, they generally exhibit a less serious form of the disorder. ADD shows up most readily in situations where the child is required to work independently or in a group setting. One-on-one situations or situations that are new to the child tend not to display ADD behaviors as much.
Childhood ADD is often called by various names, including hyperactivity, minimal brain dysfunction, minimal brain damage and hyperkinetic syndrome.
Symptoms of childhood ADD include:
- Inattention – does not finish things once started, appears not to listen, is easily distracted, cannot focus on schoolwork or anything requiring a longer attention span, does not stay with a play activity for long.
- Impusivity – acts without thinking about consequences, moves excessively from one task to another, does not organize work though this is not because of any cognitive impairment, must have supervision, talks out in class, does not wait his or her turn in group situations.
- Hyperactivity – ADD may be diagnosed with or without hyperactivity, but a hyperactive child will do at least two of these: run or climb excessively, cannot sit still and fidgets, cannot stay seated, moves around more than usual even when asleep.
- ADD symptoms are usually seen before age seven.
- The symptoms last at least six months.
- The symptoms are not caused by schizophrenia, affective disorder or any type of profound mental retardation.
In addition, those with childhood ADD may have specific learning disabilities that can lead to emotional problems as a result of falling behind in school or receiving constant reprimands from adults or ridicule from other children.
No single cause for childhood ADD is known. As with depression, scientists suspect that a combination of heredity, environment and biological problems contribute to development of the disorder. For example, studies show that parents of some children suffering from ADD also were diagnosed as having the illness.