Is ADD a Condition or a Symptom?

June 1, 2010 by Geoff Nixon

Using the Quotient machine to measure ADD

There was an interesting article in the New York Times today about the controversial Quotient machine that uses an exercise based on a repetitive boring task as a way of measuring focus.  Clinicians are using this equipment to measure the impact of a drug while they are still in the office to avoid the normal dose and drug experimentation.

The article, titled “Seeking an Objective Test for Attention Disorder,” points out that finding a bio-marker is the Holy Grail of ADD and ADHD science.  It pokes fun at the current ADD testing which most heavily relies on parent feedback.  But the article also has a cynical tone towards the Quotient test as it is so narrow.

We think the real question here is this:  Is ADD or ADHD a condition or a symptom of a learning or other issue?  We think ADD and ADHD are best thought of as symptoms, like a high temperature is a sign of sickness.

And so while measuring the level of inattentiveness may be useful –thermometers are useful — it doesn’t really help define causes.

In our world of auditory processing difficulties and language deficits, inattentiveness is common.  Children drift off in class because the world is coming at them too quickly.  Sure, the teacher will observe ADD in this case, but in this case, where there is CAPD there are interventions like Fast ForWord software which can help.  For ADD due to auditory processing problems drugs are not the best choice.  This is inattentive attention deficit disorder that in most cases will respond to treatment of the underlying auditory processing disorder.

Therefore we believe the concept of an ADD or ADHD biomarker is scary. It may help clinicians move off the idea that the first interventions should be focused on the causes.  Here is the New York Times article.