“ ADHD, a disorder beginning in childhood, characterized by a persistent inability to sit
still, focus attention on specific tasks, and control impulses,” contributed by Michael Woods to
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most
common mental disorders of childhood. Many children grow out of ADHD by adolescent or
adult years, but many do not. Studies show ADHD in adulthood is more severe and may cause
long term effects.
Diagnosing ADHD is very difficult, because most children are inattentive, hyperactive, and
impulsive at least some of the time. When diagnosing there is no blood test, or written test to
determine if ADHD is present. All there is are guidelines and an educated guess. The guidelines
include, “ A disturbance of at least six months during which at least eight of the following are
1. often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
2. has difficulty remaining seated when required to do so
3. is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
4. has difficulty awaiting turn in games or group situations
5. often blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed
6. has difficulty following through on instructions from others
7. has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
8. often shifts from one uncompleted activity to another
9. has difficulty playing quietly
10. often talks excessively
11. often does not seem to listen to what is being said to him or her
13. often loses things necessary for tasks or activities at school or at home ( e.g.. pencils )
14. often engages in physically dangerous activities without considering possible
consequences ( not for thrill seeking purposes ) e.g.. runs into the street without looking
The above items are listed in descending order of discriminating power based on data from
national field trial of the DSM-III-R criteria for Disruptive Behavior Disorders,” contributed Sam
& Michael Goldstein to Managing Attention Disorders in Children page11. In order to diagnose
ADHD, these symptoms must occur more frequent than children of the same age and must occur
in more than one sitting.
90% of ADHD patients take Ritalin, a mild central nervous system stimulant believed to
calm hyperactivity by helping the brain disregard distracting stimuli, “ ADHD has been estimated
to affect 3% to 5% of school-age children nation wide, with less than 3% actually receiving
medication,” said Gretchen LeFever, a pediatric psychologist, on an Internet column. Gretchen
LeFever’s research found that 8% to 10% of children in second through fifth grades routinely
took ADHD medication in school during 1995-1996 school year. LeFever also conducted
another study which she examined records of student enrolled in the second through fifth grade
once again, but she chose two specific cities this time, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. She chose
these two cities, because they are the most diverse cities in Virginia, Portsmouth is a small, urban,
poor, mostly black district, while Virginia Beach, Virginia is a larger, more wealthy, and mostly
white district. LeFever and her researchers found that ADHD medication was used three times as
many boys as with girls and twice as many whites as blacks. The researchers also found that the
use of medication increased as the children aged. By fifth grade, 19% to 20% of white boys
received ADHD medication.
Scientists do not know what causes ADHD, however, they have discredited many theories
that ADHD was a result from minor head injuries or undetectable brain damage due to infections
or complications during birth. Another theory blamed the consumption of refined sugar and food
additives, a study was done and it showed that very few ADHD children benefited from a special
diet. Another theory junked was the theory of bad parenting or a dysfunctional home life.
“ Controversy exists over the diagnosis of ADHD. Physicians in the United States
diagnose the disorder more often than doctors elsewhere in the world,” contributed Michael
Woods to Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Researchers examined about 30,000 grade-school
children in two districts in southeastern Virginia and found that pupils took drugs for ADHD in
school at two to three times the expected rate, according to the study in the American Journal of
Public Health. “It’s hard to believe this many children have the specific brain-related problem
called ADHD,” said Dr. Louis H. McCormick, a faculty member in the family medicine
department at Louisiana State University medical school. He said that his study confirmed that
his suspicion that kids are being overdiagnosed.
“Although there is no cure for ADHD, a variety of treatments may help children with this
disorder. These include medication, counseling, social skills training, and other methods. Drugs