Attention Deficit Disorder

What is ADD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is a condition that can make it hard for a person to sit still, control behavior, and pay attention. These difficulties usually begin before the person is 7 years old. However, these behaviors may not be noticed until the child is older.

Doctors do not know just what causes ADD. However, researchers who study the brain are coming closer to understanding what may cause ADD. They believe that some people with AD/HD do not have enough of certain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) in their brain. These chemicals help the brain control behavior.

Parents and teachers do not cause ADD. Still, there are many things that both parents and teachers can do to help a child with ADD.

How common is ADD?

As many as 5 out of every 100 children in school may have ADD. Boys are three times more likely than girls to have ADD.

What are the signs of ADD?

There are three main signs, or symptoms, of ADD. These are:

  • problems with paying attention
  • being very active (called hyperactivity)
  • acting before thinking (called impulsivity)

More information about these symptoms is listed in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association (2000). Based on these symptoms, three types of ADD have been found:

  • inattentive type where the person can’t seem to get focused or stay focused on a task or activity
  • hyperactive-impulsive type where the person is very active and often acts without thinking
  • combined type where the person is inattentive, impulsive, and too active


Inattentive type

Many children with ADD have problems paying attention. Children with the inattentive type of ADD often:

  • do not pay close attention to details;
  • can’t stay focused on play or school work;
  • don’t follow through on instructions or finish school work or chores;
  • can’t seem to organize tasks and activities;
  • get distracted easily; and
  • lose things such as toys, school work, and books. (APA, 2000, pp. 85-86)


Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

Being too active is probably the most visible sign of ADHD. The hyperactive child is “always on the go.” (As he or she gets older, the level of activity may go down.) These children also act before thinking (called impulsivity). For example, they may run across the road without looking or climb to the top of very tall trees. They may be surprised to find themselves in a dangerous situation. They may have no idea of how to get out of the situation.

Hyperactivity and impulsivity tend to go together. Children with the hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD often may:

  • fidget and squirm;
  • get out of their chairs when they’re not supposed to;
  • run around or climb constantly;
  • have trouble playing quietly;
  • talk too much;
  • blurt out answers before questions have been completed;
  • have trouble waiting their turn;
  • interrupt others when they’re talking; and
  • butt in on the games others are playing. (APA, 2000, p. 86)


Combined Type

Children with the combined type of ADHD have symptoms of both of the types described above. They have problems with paying attention, with hyperactivity, and with controlling their impulses. Of course, from time to time, all children are inattentive, impulsive, and too active. With children who have ADHD, these behaviors are the rule, not the exception.

These behaviors can cause a child to have real problems at home, at school, and with friends. As a result, many children with ADHD will feel anxious, unsure of themselves, and depressed. These feelings are not symptoms of ADHD. They come from having problems again and again at home and in school.

How do you know if a child has ADHD?

When a child shows signs of ADHD, he or she needs to be evaluated by a trained professional. This person may work for the school system or may be a professional in private practice. A complete evaluation is the only way to know for sure if the child has ADHD. It is also important to:

  • rule out other reasons for the child’s behavior, and
  • find out if the child has other disabilities along with AD/HD.

What about treatment?

There is no quick treatment for ADHD. However, the symptoms of ADHD can be managed. It’s important that the child’s family and teachers:

  • find out more about ADHD
  • learn how to help the child manage his or her behavior
  • create an educational program that fits the child’s individual needs and
  • provide medication, if parents and the doctor feel this would help the child

Where Can I Get Help?

CHADD(Children and Adults with Attention-Defict/Hyperactivity Disorder)

Vancouver Chapter
PO Box 74670
Vancouver BC, V6K 4P4


CHADD National