Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is it?

Some children have more trouble paying attention in class and completing academic assignments than others. ADHD is a childhood and adolescent disorder that affects anywhere from 2-10% of children. Boys are three times more likely to have ADHD than girls. It is defined as inappropriate degrees of attention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity for the child's age group. It is present in all settings (home, school and social).

Not every student that has trouble paying attention or completing assignments has ADHD. This is particularly true in young children who may not have yet developed the maturity to meet the demands of school. In fact, many educators overestimate the number of children that have ADHD and may mislabel some children.

It is helpful to think of the development a child's attention span in three steps. The first step is what psychologists refer to as exclusive. It is the ability to fixate attention on one object without noticing anything else. An example of this would be a baby who focuses totally on a button or a pin on the clothing of the person holding her. A child who gets stuck in this stage might be diagnosed as having autism.

The next stage of attention development is the ability to pay attention to a number of different things at the same time. Psychologists call this attention, inclusive. A good example is a toddler whose attention switches quickly from one toy to the next, never being able to play with one toy for any period of time. A child who is stuck in this stage might be diagnosed as having ADHD.

In the last stage, the child gains the ability to switch between inclusive and exclusive attention. It allows the child to concentrate and complete a task, while still being aware of his surroundings. This mature pattern of attention is required to handle the demands of a classroom.

There are a variety of causes for poor attention, concentration and impulse control:

The Symptoms of Poor Attention

Immaturity & slow psychological development

Learning disabilities such as dyslexia



Metabolic disorders

Low motivation

Lack of sleep

Poor nutrition

Boredom due to lack of challenge

If your child has the symptoms of poor attention, concentration and/or impulse control for some time, you should see your doctor. An ADHD workup would include a full medical exam as well as a full psychological evaluation to rule out the possibilities listed. For More Information:

Effective Parenting Strategies
National Attention Deficit Disorder Association
The Attention Deficit Information Network, Inc.
Children & Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
National Institute of Mental Health

Adapted from "About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADD/ADHD". The Child Development Istitute.