Most individuals are familiar with the term Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). We often associate this neurodevelopmental disorder with images of students having difficulty sitting still, who are impulsive, and potentially disruptive in controlled settings. While it is true that some individuals with ADHD exhibit these symptoms at times, many do not.
Types of ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has three types: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and combined. Distractibility is at the core of inattentive ADHD.
Imagine a child staring quietly out the window during class. She loses track of time, misses out on key instructions, and is unable to finish the assignment in front of her before it is picked up. At the same time, a student in another part of the room keeps getting up to sharpen pencils and has only answered one of the questions on the page. Another kicks the adjacent desk repeatedly, upsetting the student seated there. Each child has little control over his or her behavior and is having a hard time getting work done. But which students do you think the teacher will notice? What about a coach, parent, or camp counselor faced with similar behaviors at once? Because symptoms of inattentive ADHD are more subtle and can mimic those of anxiety or depression in adults and many learning disorders in children, it is often overlooked or left untreated.
Symptoms of Inattentive ADHD
The CDC lists the nine symptoms below as associated with inattentive ADHD. The criteria includes developmentally inappropriate behavior lasting longer than 6 months, consisting of six or more of these symptoms in children through age 16, and five indicators in people 17 or older. In addition, several of the behaviors should be present before age 12, occur in two or more settings, and interfere with daily performance. It’s also important to rule out other possible medical conditions such as mood disorders or low blood sugar.
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
- In many instances 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 (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Frequently avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Inattentive ADHD occurs more often in girls than boys. The symptoms become more apparent between the ages of 9 and 11. It can impact their lives both socially and academically. While the exact cause is unknown, it does run in families. A January 2017 article from medicalnewstoday.com states that as many as 3 out of every 4 children with ADHD have a family member with the disorder. Risk factors include being premature or having a low birth weight, and exposure to environmental toxins like lead.
Tips for Home and the Classroom
Pediatricians, child psychologists, neurologists, and other health care professionals can diagnose ADHD. Recommended treatments include therapy, medication, and social skills training. Additionally, there are things that can be done at home and school to help students with inattentive ADHD maintain focus.
- Break tasks down into smaller steps
- Use checklists and calendars to keep track of responsibilities and time
- Organize materials so they’re easily accessible and all needed items are readily available (when getting ready for school, working on homework, or taking part in an extracurricular activity)
- Provide clear, concise instructions and follow up with questions to check for understanding
- Minimize distractions. (This may mean access to electronics, proximity to the window or door at home, or sibling interruptions.)
There is no cure for inattentive or other forms of ADHD, but early identification and intervention can decrease symptoms and lead to tremendous improvements in academics or work, social skills, and self-esteem. All students have tremendous potential. The sooner we help to identify and address their specific needs, the sooner that potential can be realized.
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