If you are a parent of a child diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, you may have previously believed that the terms were interchangeable. While both disorders are related and a form of attention deficit disorder, ADD is more often associated with symptoms of distractibility, poor working memory and inattention. ADHD, on the hand, adds a second layer of hyperactivity and impulsivity to the mix.
If you have not yet received a diagnosis for your child, you may want to look further into what differentiates ADD vs. ADHD, how the conditions are diagnosed, and what treatment options are available. The following guide should give you some pointers.
The Difference between ADHD and ADD?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder while ADD is the abbreviation for Attention Deficit Disorder. ADD is used to describe what we refer to today as predominantly inattentive ADHD. Children with this form of ADHD will often have trouble concentrating, but won’t have the outburst of energy, compulsiveness, and irritability that usually comes with hyperactive ADHD. This form is more often diagnosed in girls.
Predominantly hyperactive ADHD is what usually fits the stereotypical view of what ADHD is. It comes with hyperactivity, restlessness and a general lack of patience. This type of ADHD is the most common among boys.
There’s also a third type of ADHD referred to as combined ADHD which is when a child exhibits a combination of hyperactive and inattentive ADHD symptoms. Note that ADD is not used as a diagnostic term these days and the term ADHD is used to encompass the full spectrum of ADHD symptoms.
How ADHD is diagnosed in Children
An ADHD evaluation will often start by taking your child to a primary-care physician, but in most cases, it won’t end there. That’s because most general practitioners are not well versed enough to understand the full depth of ADHD symptoms and its various overlapping conditions, which makes them ill equipped to perform a thorough evaluation. The other reason is the time it takes to thoroughly perform an examination. Diagnosing ADHD takes several hours of test taking, analysis and talking and most general practitioners won’t have enough time to dedicate to your child.
A general practitioner may overlook comorbid or coexisting conditions which may have some overlapping symptoms such as mood disorders, autism, or learning disabilities for instance. Professionals who have training in diagnosing ADHD cases will be better at screening these conditions.
They will usually gather medical history through a medical interview along with neuropsychological testing. This will allow them to identify comorbid conditions along with some of your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
What are the Treatment Options for ADHD?
In many cases, some form of medication will be prescribed. If you’re a parent, this may be difficult to accept, but the results can be beneficial in the long run. Behavioral intervention can also be used, but often medication may be enough to treat the symptoms.
ADHD medications usually fall between two categories, non-stimulants and stimulants.
1. Central nervous system stimulants (CNS)
Central nervous system stimulants (CNS) are usually the most common form of ADHD medication that is prescribed. They will work by boosting the production of norepinephrine and dopamine in the system and will improve your child’s concentration. Common types of CNS stimulants include amphetamine-based stimulants like Dexedrine or Adderall or other alternatives like methylphenidate and dexmethylphenidate.
2. Non-stimulant medication
Non-stimulant medication,on the other hand, will work by boosting norepinephrine production principally, which is responsible for boosting memory and attention. Common examples of non-stimulant medication include atomoxetine or antidepressants like nortriptyline.
Tips for Parenting
- Be patient and positive: Usually, treatment of ADD and ADHD takes time, and not only months but years so keep yourself positive and have patience. Do not lose hope nor degrade your child for what he/she is going through.
- Speak to a knowledgeable expert: Instead of going here and there to speak your heart out, choose an expert who is knowledgeable and experienced. Additionally, look for an expert who has a positive and encouraging attitude towards you and your child through-out this journey.
- Do not show resentment: It’s very difficult to accept that your child is going through some difficulties but more than your acceptance it is difficult and heart-breaking for the child to sense anger, frustration and bitterness from the parents. Make yourself understand that all children are imperfect and turn these challenges into God’s gifts.
- Don’t only rely on medication: Many parents think the only way to treat or dilute ADHD or ADD is right medication. While you can’t deny the importance of medicines, as a parent you must also understand that it’s your efforts and behavior that will help the child more.
- Punish vs Discipline: Children with ADHD and ADD behave in certain ways that are beyond their control. Do not punish your child for everything inappropriate he/she does. ADHD children need to be taught what discipline is by explaining them about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Rather than punishing them for wrong, redirect them towards trying to do work in the right way.
- Focus on positive behavior: Most parents recall and highlight the negative behaviors in children. This will only extend your journey and not take you any further. Instead of talking about what your child shouldn’t do, shed light on what good your child has done and praise them on their qualities.
- Don’t Assume: Instead of jumping on to conclusions because you have heard bad about your child from their school, friends and neighbourhood, learn to observe and understand yourself. Read as much as you can about what expert say and how real-time case studies have overcome such situations.
As children with ADD and ADHD grow older, they have a whole new set of problems and emotions, which at times even parents can’t comprehend. This book written by renowned ADHD researcher/clinician Russell A. Barkley is a step-by-step guide for parents and adults to understand these symptoms and learn strategies that can help manage and control them.
Thriving with ADHD Workbook for Kids: 60 Fun Activities to Help Children Self-Regulate, Focus, and Succeed
This wonderful book is a complete toolkit for parents. Alongside an overview of ADHD, this book provides; exercises to deal with different emotions, control behaviors, action-oriented lessons that engage children in meaningful activities and self-regulatory techniques for parents to practice with the children.
We hope that we were able to demystify some things about ADHD. If you believe your child may be suffering from the disorder, consult a professional today to schedule an evaluation.