Diagnosing ADHD

Lyndsay says ADHD is easier to catch and is especially noticeable in schools—students with ADHD often have difficulty sitting still and paying attention for long stretches. "These students may talk out in class, and their desks are typically a mess. They will have difficulty completing work and turning in homework. ... They may even engage in physical interactions due to their inability to control impulsivity," Lyndsay says.

As for social interaction, kids with ADHD may lack the ability to filter their thoughts and can therefore make unintentionally hurtful comments to their peers. However, don't let such obstacles write off a child's potential for academic and creative success. Many kids with ADHD are able to overcome their struggles with distractions when engaged in reading and art, Lyndsay says.

While children with ADHD face fundamentally similar struggles to those with ADD, they may not display the rambunctious behaviors associated with ADD. Take notice if children need constant reminders to brush their teeth, get dressed or clean their room. "Children with ADD may fall through the cracks because they don't stand out as much as their hyperactive counterparts," Lyndsay says.

If a teacher or pediatrician notices signs of ADD or ADHD, Dr. Lippitt says they often refer the patient to a psychiatrist who can take a closer look. She says almost all medications are going to be Adderall or Ritalin variants. Don't panic if the medication doesn't initially trigger behavioral changes. "Sometimes it's trial and error for what drug works best for each child," Dr. Lippitt says.

Misdiagnosing ADD and ADHD


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