Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder : an ADHD Diagnosis

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An ADHD diagnosis (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is an incredibly common diagnosis among school age children, particularly boys. Estimates range between 7-10% of children have an ADHD diagnosis. That is about 2-3 children per classroom.

While the ADHD diagnosis is common, the actual prevalence is a much debated topic. We aren't going to join that debate today for I assume that if you are here, then you believe, at a minimum, in the existence of the behaviors encompassed by an ADHD diagnosis.

I will however say this for anyone who is at all skeptical about the prevalence issue : As medical technology has advanced our abilities to "save" premature babies and complete high risk pregnancies, so have the diagnosis rates skyrocketed for a wide range of childhood disorders; ADHD, Autism, Aspergers, learning disabilities, etc.

ADD/ADHD is defined by the DSM-IV-TRĀ® as the following:

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A. Either (1) or (2):

(1) six (or more) of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:


  • often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
  • often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (i) is often forgetful in daily activities
(2) six (or more) of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:


  • often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
  • often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor"
  • often talks excessively
  • often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • often has difficulty awaiting turn
  • often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
B. Some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms that caused impairment were present before age 7 years.

C. Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g., at school [or work] and at home).

D. There must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

E. The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

Code based on type:

314.01 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Type: if both Criteria A 1 and A2 are met for the past 6 months

314.00 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type: if Criterion A 1 is met but Criterion A2 is not met for the past 6 months

314.01 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: if Criterion A2 is met but Criterion A 1 is not met for the past 6 months

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A brief mention specifically about ADD (attention deficit WITHOUT hyperactivity). ADD is more difficult to spot than ADHD and more likely to be diagnosed in girls than boys. ADD means there is no excessive activity or hyperness (the H in ADHD) exhibited by the child. That translates into a child being easily overlooked because they don't cause "problems." But they also probably don't perform well. So, if your child, especially a girl,doesn't generally display any behavior problems, but continues to be unproductive and unsuccessful in school and/or is absentminded and forgetful at home, don't overlook the possibility of ADD.

If you have that special child, who has an ADHD diagnosis, no other diagnosed mental, behavioral or learning disabilities AND who responds successfully to medication, YOU ARE LUCKY! In my professional experience, these kids are becoming fewer and farther between as we more frequently are seeing kids with multiple disabilities.

ADHD can cause problems for kids in all areas of their lives. They have trouble focusing on and completing educational tasks. They are likely to be fidgety, up and out of their seats, asking for bathroom breaks or trips to the nurse, A LOT.

They may seem like they have lots of friends but in reality may have very few close friends, and in fact might only have one friend who occasionally grows weary of them.

So, if any of this sounds like your child and you are wondering what can help, visit my

traditional medicine and alternative treatment sections of the site.

And one last thing - if any of this sounds like your child but your child also has frequent oppositional behavior, temper tantrums, mood swings and aggressiveness, please visit my adhd vs. bipolar page too.

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