Types of ADHD in Children


What types of ADHD in children do teachers commonly see?  Is it the kid who is wound up all the time or the one who is constantly daydreaming?

ADHD in children

ADHD is an acronym that stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, and ADD is an acronym that stands for Attention Deficit Disorder.

The difference between the two is primarily due to an increased hyperactivity level.

This is a developmental disorder of both children and adults that is comprised of deficits in sustained attention, impulse control and the relation of activity level to situational demands. 

The symptoms vary, but primary features of ADHD in children are:

  • inattention
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsivity

Types of ADHD

There are three subtypes of AD/HD:

  • Predominantly Combined Type
  • Predominately Inattentive Type
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

The most often seen type is Combined.  These students will show symptoms of all three characteristics in the classroom.  The latest CDC research on ADHD statistics shows that this neurologically based disorder affects around 8% of our students.

ADHD is likely related to differences in the function of some areas of the brain that regulate activity and attention, but the exact cause is not known.  We do know that if a parent shares that he or she has ADHD, that is a good indicator as to what might be going on.   We also are becoming more aware and accepting of this disability due to the amount of famous people with ADHD that are sharing their stories.

Cigarettes, alcohol or other drugs during pregnancy may increase the risk for attention disorders in children as well. Students who were "crack babies," exposed to marijuana prenatally or were diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome will likely show some degree of it.

There are many things that can be done to help a child manage impulse-control and behavioral issues beyond medication. Sometimes an improved diet that cuts out gluten, dyes and hidden sugars can make a big difference.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health have found that a type of diet modification actually helps only about 5% of children already diagnosed with AD/HD, and they are usually ones who have pre-existing food allergies.  However, many European countries like France routinely treat diet and family environment changes before even discussing medication options (and I personally know that diet makes a huge difference in all of my children).

I do recommend parents improve their child's diet (particularly increasing Omega-3s and Vitamin D) and also remove electronic games.  I just know from my own kids that de-stimulating the home environment has only a positive effect on concentration and behavior.  

Can a School Diagnose ADHD in Children?

A school cannot diagnose ADHD. However, schools certainly can (and should) discuss any behavior that negatively impacts a student's best chances for success. It is a responsibility to the child and to the family that we have these difficult discussions.  

  • I also think that teachers ought to seriously discuss both the positive and negative effects of medication with parents if it is brought up.
  • It isn't our place (perhaps) but who else will?  We are on the side of the child and some medicines produce very scary side effects.  
  • If you're a teacher who talks about "going to the doctor" with parents, then you ought to know about the side effects of what you are discussing.

Educators should also know the statistics of ADHD and how they can impact a child's future. 

We have to address these issues and develop a plan for success, whether or not there is an official diagnosis.

When teachers notice signs of ADHD in children we take note of how it is impacting the student's social, behavioral and emotional interactions along with academics.

Often ADHD symptoms are noted by school professionals before parents, as the structure of school is more demanding n the areas where students with these characteristics tend to perform poorly.

If AD/HD is suspected, a first step often taken is that parents and educators will fill out a BASC (Behavior Assessment for Children) or a similar form.

Then the school psychologist will come in for a behavioral observation of any signs of abnormal behavior in the classroom.  Most often an observation will be done with a comparison of behaviors between the student that is suspected of having the disability and a control student (one who does not).

The school should then develop a behavior plan to assist the student and implement ADHD interventions for academic success.  This can be as simple as classroom modifications, instructional adjustments or frequent breaks.  

If the family chooses to visit the doctor about medication, please realize that is a very emotionally charged and personal decision.  I know it helped my middle son for a while - it really did make a difference in how he felt about himself and he was finally able to make friends.  

However, he is not on it anymore and it was always about HIM, not about making the teacher's life easier.

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