Difference Between ADD and ADHD

› Difference

What's the difference between ADD and ADHD? There are a lot of similarities, but each type has specific behavior interventions that can truly help ADHD in children.


In the school setting, the main behavioral difference between the two that teachers will notice are that students with the hyperactivity component always seem to be "driven by a motor" while the ADD child will seem to be very lethargic and "spacey."


difference between add and adhd in the classroom


Children with both types of ADD have an attentional bias towards novelty. 

Since most academic problems come from repetitive tasks, it is important to add novelty instead of a lot of repetition to lessons.



But the reality is that ADD without hyperactivity and ADHD inattentive type are two completely different disorders.

  • ADD has one dimension: inattention.
    Distraction, disorganization, not listening, daydreaming, lethargic…these are the students that teachers say do not ever pay attention.

  • ADHD has two dimensions: Everything above PLUS impulsivity and hyperactivity.
    These are the students who just cannot seem to settle down. I remember one child who crawled out of his chair and shut himself in a locker before I could stop him (true story!).



ADD and ADHD Symptoms in the Classroom

Inattention (ADD and ADHD)

  1. Fails to give close attention to details; makes careless mistakes
  2. Does not seem to listen when directly spoken to
  3. Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  4. Loses items necessary for tasks or activities
  5. Easily distracted by outside stimuli
  6. Does not follow instructions and fails to finish school work

Hyperactivity (ADHD)

  1. Fidgets excessively with hands and feet
  2. Often leaves seat without permission
  3. Talks excessively
  4. Is always "on the go"
  5. Runs, climbs, jumps in non-appropriate settings and situations (like crawling on the floor, rolling under desks or jumping on classmates in line)

Impulsivity (ADHD)

  1. Blurts out answers without waiting for questions to be completed
  2. Interrupts games and conversations without being invited
  3. Cannot wait for a turn

Parents May Also Report:

  • Resistance to routines like teeth brushing, getting dressed, etc.
  • Gets easily upset or frustrated
  • Immature social interactions; few friends
  • Self-centered
  • Easily bored at home, unless it is a video game or a movie

ADHD intervention at school is in the form of a behavior intervention plan and an adjustment in the classroom teaching and/or management style if necessary.

Specific Signs of ADD

Children who have ADD take a long time to get anything done and always seem like they are not listening. This is a big difference between ADD and ADHD - these kids are not driven by a motor at all! They can experience so much difficulty with even small tasks because it takes so long to complete each one.

  1. Frequent staring
  2. Deficient on measures of focused attention
  3. Socially uninvolved or reluctant
  4. Rarely oppositional or aggressive
  5. Not impulsive
  6. High incidence of LD and anxiety in the family
  7. Excessive daydreaming

Do not assume that our students who struggle to pay attention also have have a learning disability. While this is sometimes the case, these students are often very bright and imaginative - they could be dreaming up the next big invention!


Treatment of ADD and ADHD

There are certainly interventions that can be done at school that really help kids who suffer from AD/HD.

But is there a difference between the response to medication from students with ADD and those with the hyperactivity component (ADHD)? Yes.

Students with ADD respond very modestly to medication, about 65%. ADHD, however, has a 90% response rate to medication. Keep in mind that the term "response rate" is a variable and results will be different with some types of medication.

ADHD students will most certainly display a difference in behaviors on the correct medication under a doctor's supervision. My middle son was on Concerta for three years and it really was a life-saver for our family. However, we did find something better that allowed us to finally get rid of his medication for good (and he is doing great - no signs of ADHD anymore!).

Like our family, there are many parents who start their ADD child on medication but have real concerns about the long-term health and well-being of their child.

Others will discontinue it because the gains appear to be minimal and the negative side effects are very pronounced.



Just remember that as a teacher, we have to empathize with families who are struggling with this. It's tough to hear that your child has attention issues, hard to understand the difference between ADD and ADHD, and then devastating to realize that a daily pill is in the immediate future.

You may want to consider talking to parents about their child's diet, intake of Omega 3s and reducing simple carbs when opening discussions about ADHD. Studies are showing that there may be a direct relationship between the disorder and diet.



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