Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is poor or short attention span and/or excessive activity and impulsiveness inappropriate for the child’s age that interferes with functioning or development.
ADHD is a brain disorder that is present from birth or develops shortly after birth.
Some children mainly have difficulty with sustained attention, concentration, and ability to complete tasks; some children are overactive and impulsive; and some are both.
Doctors use questionnaires completed by parents and teachers as well as observations of the child to make the diagnosis.
Psychostimulant or other drugs plus structured environments, routines, a school intervention plan, and modified parenting techniques are often needed.
Although there is considerable controversy about the number of children affected, it is estimated that ADHD affects 11% of school-aged children and is diagnosed 2 to 9 times more often in boys than in girls.
Many features of ADHD are often noticed before age 4 and invariably before age 12, but they may not interfere significantly with academic performance and social functioning until the middle school years.
ADHD was previously called just attention deficit disorder (ADD). However, the common occurrence of hyperactivity in affected children—which is really a physical extension of attention deficit and impulsivity—led to a change to the current terminology.
The symptoms of ADHD range from mild to severe and can become exaggerated or become a problem in certain environments, such as at home or at school. The constraints of school and organized lifestyles make ADHD a problem, whereas in prior generations, the symptoms may not have interfered significantly with children’s functioning because people had different expectations about normal childhood behavior. Although some of the symptoms of ADHD can also occur in children without ADHD, they are more frequent and severe in children with ADHD.