As our focus remains on LD/ADHD Awareness month, I thought it would be helpful to take a closer look at what ADHD is and share questions that families frequently have.
There is often a misconception that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a learning disability. A recent article on understood.org shared that while ADHD can interfere with learning, it is not what we define as a learning disability. However, the article goes on to state that experts estimate that one-third to one-half of people with LD also have ADHD.
Confused yet? You’re not alone. Let’s take a closer look at some common questions parents have about ADHD.
In the 1980s in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition (DSM III), there was a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). ADHD and ADD were merged in the DSM IV to ADHD: Inattentive Type and ADHD: Combined Type. Now in DSM V, these are referred to as ADHD: Inattentive Presentation and ADHD: Combined Presentation. This change accounts for the challenges of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in that when the person is young there may be more outward signs of overactive/ impulsive behaviors. With age, “impulsive behavior” may be less obvious such as: difficulty managing money, an internal sense of restlessness or difficulty considering future consequences when faced with a desirable activity in the present. It is certainly acceptable for you as a parent to refer to your child as having “ADD” if it helps someone understand your child.
Your child’s brain continues to develop into early adulthood, right up to age 30! During childhood, we are teaching our children strategies like using a checklist to resist distraction or breaking long term assignments into manageable parts on a weekly calendar. As adults, we continue to apply those strategies and also have freedom to choose the kind of environment in which we work and live. For example, adults can choose to schedule a class at a time that matches with their optimum functioning. Adults can choose to exercise before engaging in a task that will require more concentration and attention to detail. We make our own schedule, up to a point, to better match our optimal level of energy. Adults can choose work environments that better align with their strengths. An adult who thrives on interacting with others will choose jobs that have more interaction with the public, whether in health care or customer service. Some students with ADHD feel refreshed when exposed to new experiences or are asked to solve new problems. They won’t choose jobs in which the employee does the same task every day. The challenges of ADHD are still there, but the adult has strategies and an awareness of what they need to be successful. So, the answer is, “It depends.”
In a way, it is. ADHD represents a delay in the development of the prefrontal system in the brain. This is the area that guides, directs and manages our emotions and behavior as the child moves through their day. These are the Executive Functions. Children with ADHD need more structure, routine and follow along than same-aged peers. Dr. Russell Barkley describes the “30% rule” suggesting that adults subtract 30% from the child’s age to estimate the level of personal responsibility and emotional maturity that can be expected from the child. Adults may need to continue to provide structure and supervision and issue reminders at an age when peers may exhibit greater independence.
As our knowledge and understanding of LD and ADHD increases, we are hopefully making progress in the way we think about and treat individuals who happen to have learning differences. Be sure to check our post next week for more facts and tips on learning disabilities and ADHD.
Blogger Mary Ann Mulcahey, PhD, shares her expertise in assessment and diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD, and the social/emotional adjustment to those issues. If you have questions, please contact Mary Ann at .