The Scoop on ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a topic filled with diverse opinions. To some, it seems like a modern trend that can hardly count as a real diagnosis. For parents of children with ADHD, it is often a central focus of their lives, the cause of much stress, concern, and early grey hairs. Others struggle with the understanding of what causes ADHD and whether or not medications are the sole best way to remedy it.

All of the contradicting, heated opinions and research can leave a parent overwhelmed with how to best help their ADHD child succeed. Some assume that it is just poor parenting behind diagnoses of ADHD, and this only adds to the feelings of guilt and confusion for anxious parents.

ADHD Basics

ADHD is considered a developmental disorder, or set of characteristics, that develops in childhood, typically before age 13. It is not considered something that adults can develop, who did not already have it in childhood. The main symptoms of ADHD are:

  • Difficulty with impulse control, delayed gratification, and resistance to distractions.
  • “Excessive task-irrelevant activity” (Barkley & Murphy, 2006) and restlessness. Children with ADHD often display fidgeting and other movements that are unrelated to the task at hand.

Those with ADHD also may display difficulty in regulating emotions, impaired problem-solving, and struggles to maintain motivation to complete tasks that they do not find interesting.

What is the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?

ADHD is considered the official term in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, those diagnosed with ADHD do not always have the “hyperactivity” symptoms, and commonly use the term ADD. In other words, ADD merely refers to ADHD without hyperactivity. Formerly, there were two separate diagnoses for ADHD and ADD, but now they are both officially lumped together as ADHD and “ADHD, inattentive subtype”, although the term ADD is still widely used.

Other Facts about ADHD

  • The majority of research shows that the use of stimulant medications to treat ADHD leads to the best and most lasting results.
  • Many doctors recommend that improving nutritional diet, exercise, and adding structure to a person’s schedule will enhance the effectiveness of medication and improve focus overall.
  • The Centers for Disease control recommends that children ages 6 and up receive behavioral therapy in combination with medication for ADHD. Less than 1 in 3 receive this ideal approach, with many receiving only medication.
  • “Because behavioral therapy is the safest ADHD treatment for children under the age of 6, it should be used first, before ADHD medication for those children,” according to researcher Ileana Arias.
  • It is estimated that genes and heritability account for 80% of the development of ADHD.
  • ADHD may be underdiagnosed in girls and in minorities. They may display less of the hyperactivity component and be able to hide their inability to focus through the desire to appear compliant.
  • Children who have ADHD are more likely to also have depression (20-30% of those with ADHD) and anxiety, as well as other mental and emotional disorders.
  • ADHD in children does not always include behavioral issues and defiance. It also can be displayed in forgetfulness and difficulty in following through with a task.

Suggestions for Parents of a Child with ADHD

The National Resource Center on ADHD recommends that the first ways parents can begin helping their child with ADHD are:

  • Avoid self-blaming. This will “waste your limited emotional energy” (National Resources Center on ADHD, 2017). ADHD is a health disorder and is not the cause of imperfect parenting. There is much research showing that most ADHD cases are genetically linked.
  • Research and learn about ADHD. It is important to be careful to separate inaccurate or incomplete information from true information. Focus on scholarly and reputable websites.
  • Make sure your child’s assessment is comprehensive. Rule out the possibility of other disorders being the cause of symptoms, and include medical, educational, and psychological evaluations.
  • Be actively involved in your child’s education as an advocate. Keep careful records of all your child’s evaluations and records. Be involved in the creation of your child’s Individual Education Plan, if he or she has one, and work with teachers and school staff as a team.
  • Reach out for help from support groups, counseling, and classes for behavior management. Never try to face the situation alone. Seeking out others who can understand will relieve a lot of stress.
  • Focus on your child’s strengths. Help your child understand that you will love them unconditionally. Set aside a regular time when you can spend one-on-one time with your child with positive interactions. Notice even the small accomplishments your child achieves.

Despite the challenges associated with the negative side of ADHD, through treatment and a few lifestyle adjustments, children and adults with ADHD can find great success and fulfillment in life.

For more information


Fink, J. W. (2016). Inside ADHD. Scholastic Teacher, 125(4), 41.

Hallowell, E.M. (2017), ADHD overview: Top ten questions on ADHD. Retrieved from:

  1. A. Barkley & K. R. Murphy (2006) Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A clinical workbook (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford Publications. Copyright 2006 by Guilford Publications. Reprinted with permission.

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