Today, there’s a lot of focus on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as we see increasing numbers of children and young adults being diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD defined is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. There are three characteristics that are associated with individuals who are diagnosed with ADHD, they include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
ADHD can be detrimental to an individual’s learning and functioning in everyday activities. When diagnosed accurately, it can be treated, and individual’s with severe ADHD can learn to function within all aspects of daily living, allowing them to become successful academically and vocationally. Currently, the biggest challenge in treating ADHD is adequate, accurate diagnosis. Despite advances in medicine, there is still no medical diagnosis available for ADHD. Instead, ADHD is typically diagnosed with behavioral checklists completed by a parent and teacher.
These behavioral checklists do not take into consideration other factors that can impact a child’s learning. There are many other factors or disorders that may lead a child to have difficulties focusing on a task or concentrating on learning activities. Indeed, other conditions and factors can include sleep apnea, chronic otitis media, depression, anxiety or a language-learning disability. These disorders can co-occur with ADHD, and they are often the casual relationship to symptoms of ADHD.
A diagnosis of ADHD requires a careful, extensive evaluation of all medical and learning skills in addition to behavioral checklists. In the absence of an adequate and appropriate diagnosis, there are attempts to treat the symptoms through medication, which does not truly address the underlying causes of the symptoms. Take the child with a language disorder, they may have difficulty sequencing and following multi-step directions or processing verbal information, disallowing them from completing tasks as expected. Similarly, a child with handwriting difficulty due to underlying, motor-based issues will likely not complete academic assignments.
Poor task completion is a hallmark indicator of ADHD, but it could also be a result of a learning disability or inability to do a task that can be taught or supported without medication. Children with undiagnosed reading disabilities are often labeled as inattentive and distractible, yet no one has looked closely at their reading skills to determine their success level. If the child has difficulties with reading, they will likely be easily distracted and avoidant to sidestep an uncomfortable situation or task. This is another area of development that is not likely to be fixed with medication.
While we know the benefits of medication in treating ADHD, a true diagnosis of ADHD requires extensive medical and developmental testing to genuinely identify alternate factors that may be co-occurring with ADHD. It’s important to remember that while a child may be present and look like ADHD, they could simply have reading, language, or motor/sensory difficulties that can be remedied without medication.
At Greater Learning LP, we assess children’s overarching situation and seek to share teachable skills and strategies that can help your child succeed without medication. Working together, we create distinct, personalized learning strategies that will bolster your child’s lifelong success.