Inattentive Attention Deficit Disorder

Symptoms & Treatment for Inattentive ADD, ADHD

Inattentive ADD is a behavior disorder that is often a symptom of a deeper-seated cognitive delay or learning difficulty.  In these cases, the ADD is not the condition that needs treatment. The treatment target should be the cognitive or processing delay causing the inattentiveness.

This is an important distinction. Inattentive ADD is often medicated. However, thinking of inattentive ADD as a symptom opens up the possibility of a permanent resolution by tackling the underlying problem.

ADHD can be inattentive and hyperactive. This is according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) written by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), DSM-5. Our interest here is inattentive ADD or ADHD-PI (Predominately Inattentive). With ADHD-PI the main symptoms involve a lack of focus or sustained attention, but even with ADHD-PI hyperactivity is often present, but less prevalent.

There are various types of attention to consider also. Sustained attention is the primary focus here, the ability to stay on task for a sustained period. Selective attention is also important. This is the ability to focus on a particular task or activity when there are other stimuli present. A successful student is able to focus selectively and for long periods.

Causes of Inattentive ADD

inattentive add in kidsADHD-PH (Predominantly Hyperactive) and Hyperkinetic disorder (where impulse control is lacking) are most often occur when there are sensory integration and brain chemistry issues.

On the other hand, ADHD-PI (Inattentive ADD) is almost always due to language processing delays that create learning inefficiencies and inattentiveness:

  • Slow processing makes listening in class exhausting — many children just tune out
  • Language processing disorder impacts phonological awareness, causing labored reading and a lack of engagement
  • Missing instructions in class and reading difficulties lead to lack of interest in homework and/or arguments at study time

These processing inefficiencies can plague your child all day long — in class, in social situations and at home. When the world is coming at you too quickly, sometimes the best form of self-defense is to just tune out. The same applies to reading time and homework, where the required tasks amount to mission impossible for your child.

This avoidance or inattentive behavior will often lead to the inattentive ADD diagnosis.  In a few cases, rather than disengage children may act out, distracting attention from the learning issues he is experiencing. As a result, in these cases, because of this hyperactivity, ADHD-PH may end up as the diagnosis.

Specific Symptoms of Inattentive ADD

Inattention may not become apparent until a child enters school. At that time the consequences of a listening skill deficit are more obvious. Also the child is older and so fewer of these behaviors relate to age-related maturity. ADHD-PI includes some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli
  • Inability to focus or sustain attention on tasks or activities
  • Procrastination
  • Producing work that is often messy and careless
  • Disorganized work habits

While you need to careful not to confuse a lack of focus with six-year-old-itis, there are telltale signs of ADHD-PI that can give you a head start in dealing with it. Here is a more complete list of ADD symptoms by age.

Inattentive ADD Treatment Options

Most parents treat ADHD-PI as a psychiatric disorder and manage the symptoms of ADHD using counseling, stimulant medications or both. A number of behavioral therapies, aerobic exercises and dietary modifications (such as free fatty acid supplements) may also help. Psychological therapies such as behavior modification therapy and family therapy can dampen symptoms. In some cases biofeedback or neurofeedback as it now called can help, albeit temporarily.

All of these approaches have one element in common. They are all band-aids. Their goal is to help ADHD by modifying behavior and changing habits. They do not address the source of the problem, the cognitive delays that cause the inattentive behavior.

Targeted exercises can often resolve the cognitive skill gaps that cause inattentive ADD. For instance, our ADD software strengthens processing efficiency, to boost reading and learning.