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ADHD and ADD are biological, brain-based conditions

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 4:00 pm

Unmotivated? Poor grades? Lazy?

With fall break rapidly approaching, progress reports and first-quarter grades are right around the corner.

If you’re frustrated with your child’s disorganized backpack, lost papers, and academic under-achievement, maybe an attention deficit needs to be explored.

Negative labels such as “lazy” or “unmotivated” are unfair and hurtful, and they do nothing but further lower your child’s self esteem. You know your child is bright, so how can you help them reach their potential?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are biological, brain-based conditions. It is estimated that 10-15 percent of school-aged children presently have an attention disorder, and the American Psychiatric Association has classified three separate types: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive, and combined.

In each case, there are criteria which must be met before a diagnosis can be made, and if this condition is adversely affecting your child’s academic progress, he/she may be eligible for specialized instruction and/or related services.

Because attention deficits are so common, educational and psychological professionals have developed many research-based strategies to help these students.

Executive function deficits affect a person’s ability to get started, organize, and sustain effort on tasks.

This sense of mental paralysis quickly leads to feelings of being overwhelmed, procrastination, and avoidance, ultimately resulting in a lack of productivity.

Parents and teachers become frustrated and often scold or shame the child, rather than seek solutions and strategies for this impairment.

A proper diagnosis is crucial; if your child exhibits any of the following characteristics to a marked degree and over a period of time, talk to your doctor or school psychologist:

• Makes careless mistakes in school work.

• Has difficulty sustaining attention to a task.

• Often does not listen when spoken to directly.

• Difficulty with organization; both at home and at school.

• Becomes bored easily; jumps from one thing to the next.

• Often loses and misplaces things.

• Frequently distracted by extraneous stimuli.

• Continuously fidgets or squirms in seat.

• Has difficulty remaining seated or still for any length of time.

• Talks excessively and blurts out answers prematurely.

• Often interrupts or intrudes on others.

• Constantly “on the go.”

• Has a hard time waiting for his/her turn.

Untreated, as many as one-third of children with an attention disorder also develop one or more co-existing conditions. Most common are anxiety, depression, behavior problems, learning and/or language difficulties.

Early intervention is crucial, and this doesn’t just mean medication. Vision therapy, occupational therapy, as well as biological and nutritional therapies have been proven to make significant improvements in these children.

There are also numerous classroom interventions and accommodations that can easily be implemented to help your child begin to feel a sense of success and accomplishment.

Teaching your child strategies to overcome these attention deficit challenges is a team effort; begin by meeting with your school psychologist to discuss your concerns.


• Dr. Debbie Vogt Purscell, PsyD, is a certified school psychologist and nutritional consultant. She has worked with children from preschool through high school, and has published “Nutrition as a Modifiable Factor in ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression; Implications for School Psychologists.”

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