adhd inattentive add

Inattentive ADHD

Symptoms and treatment for ADD, ADHD-PI

Inattentive ADHD or ADHD-PI is often a sign of a learning delay.

ADHD (or ADD as it used to be called) is widely diagnosed because many learning problems lead to ADHD symptoms. If reading or listening class is difficult and/or exhausting, then naturally drifting off or (seemingly hyperactive) avoidance behavior are natural responses.

Therefore, there is an opportunity.  Instead of medicating the ADD symptoms, consider treating the underlying cognitive or learning delay – using Gemm Learning.

Causes and Types of Inattentive ADHD

ADHD is a behavior disorder that can be inattentive and hyperactive – according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) written by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), DSM-5.  Inattentive ADD or ADHD-Inattentive type or ADHD-PI (Predominantly Inattentive) symptoms feature a lack of focus, although hyperactivity is often present but less prevalent.

There are various types of attention to consider. Sustained attention is the ability to stay. Selective attention is the ability to focus on a task or activity with other stimuli present.  A successful student is able to focus selectively and for long periods.

Hyperactivity and Inattentiveness Have Different Root Causes

ADHD-Hyperactive type (used to be called Hyperkinetic disorder – impulse control is lacking) most often occurs when there are sensory integration and brain chemistry issues.

On the other hand, ADHD-Inattentive type is almost always due to language processing delays (LPD):

  • Slow processing makes listening in class exhausting — children tune out
  • LPD impacts phonological awareness, causing labored reading and a lack of engagement
  • Missing instructions in class and reading difficulties make homework exhausting

Language processing inefficiencies burden your child in class, in social situations and at home. When language is coming at you too quickly, one form of self-defense is to tune out. The same applies to reading and homework.

Avoidance or inattentive behavior will often lead to the inattentive ADD diagnosis.  Alternatively, some children will act out, distracting attention from the learning issues. In these cases, because of this hyperactivity, ADHD-PH may end up as the diagnosis.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of ADD

In early life, many if not most children have periods of hyperactivity or inattentiveness. Because we expect young children to be vulnerable to distractions and hyperactive at times, it’s the impulsive behaviors — the dangerous jump, the blurted insult — that provide the clues for preschoolers with ADHD.

However, by age four to six, most children have learned how to sit quietly, to listen while others speak and to resist blurting things out.  While you should not confuse a lack of focus with five-year-old-itis, there are telltale signs of ADHD-PI.  This checklist of ADD symptoms involves the three main traits of ADHD-PI: inattentivenesshyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Inattentive Symptoms of ADD or ADHD-PI

Children with inattentive symptoms of ADHD-PI often go under the radar early on since they do not cause issues in class or on the playground. However, the symptoms of their inattention does have consequences: upsetting teachers and parents for not following directions; apparently under-achieving in school; or having run-ins with classmates over not playing by the rules.

Here is a checklist of symptoms of inattentiveness in children:

  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Makes careless errors
  • Appears not to be listening when spoken to
  • Has difficulty following directions or remembering instructions
  • Is not organized, and struggles with planning ahead and finishing projects
  • Frequently loses things, such as homework, belongings, etc

These symptoms of inattentive ADHD center are mostly caused by language processing delays. Slower processing means a child has to concentrate hard just to listen accurately or to read. This distracts from thinking and understanding, leading to the symptoms above.

Hyperactive Symptoms of ADHD

Hyperactivity in a child is much harder to ignore — children with ADHD-PH (Predominantly Hyperactive) are pretty much always diagnosed.

While many children are naturally active, even hyperactive at times, children with hyperactive symptoms of attention deficit disorder are always on the move. Checklist of symptoms of hyperactivity in children:

  • Constantly fidgeting or squirming in his seat
  • Often gets out of his seat where sitting quietly is expected
  • Constantly moving, often runs or climbs inappropriately
  • Talks too much
  • Has difficulty sitting quietly and playing
  • Had difficulty learning to ride a bike
  • Struggles with hand to eye skills like catching a ball

Hyperactive symptoms of ADD can be ambiguous in younger children in particular. There is a lot more 5-year-old-itis in America than ADHD-PH. While processing delays can sometimes produce hyperactivity, most of the time ADHD-PH is caused by sensory integration difficulties.

The last two ADD symptoms are looking for balance and hand-to-eye difficulties — signs of sensory integration issues.  Many children with these hyperactivity symptoms respond very well to Occupational Therapy (OT) and physical exercise treatments that improve coordination, like Interactive Metronome.

Impulsivity Symptoms of ADD

Impulsivity causes social problems for children with ADD symptoms. It is all about self-control. Because they do not censor themselves as well as they should, they interrupt conversations, ask offbeat or irrelevant questions in class and in social situations, are prone to making tactless comments or asking overly personal questions. These children are often viewed as needs, disrespectful or weird.

Symptoms of impulsivity in children:

  • Acts or speaks without thinking
  • Blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called
  • Keeps wanting to go first
  • Capable of angry outbursts or temper tantrums
  • Tends to guess rather than attempt to solve a problem

Impulsive ADD symptoms stem mainly from sensory or processing over-loading that can be caused by sensory integration or language processing delays. If you are not keeping up, you will tend to guess, lose interest, have no capacity for empathy or reading the signs, change the subject or act in a way that does not connect to the conversation or lesson.

Is it ADHD or Something Else?

Certain medical conditions, psychological disorders, and stressful life events can cause symptoms that look like ADD or ADHD-Inattentive type.

Before resorting to medication, talk to teachers, neighbors and carefully observe your child in different situations. Try to rule out the following possibilities:

  • Learning difficulties — signs here might be language delays, difficulty with background noise, reading difficulties
  • Life difficulties — such as bullying or family trauma or disruptions
  • Psychological or behavioral disorders — such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder
  • Medical conditions — including thyroid problems, neurological conditions, epilepsy, nutritional issues and sleep disorders

A common error is to medicate a learning disability when natural and more permanent solutions might be available.  Not all learning difficulties respond to treatment or therapy, but those that access the underlying source of the learning difficulty can be effective.

Signs That Your Child’s ADHD Is Learning Related

It’s a chicken and egg story. Is the inattentiveness slowing down learning or are the learning issues leading to avoidance and a lack of engagement?  More often it’s the latter. If there are learning issues, they are a great starting place when looking at your treatment versus coping options.

Here are a few common signs of language processing delays and working memory dysfunction, the two primary sources of learning and reading delays often associated with ADHD.

  • Difficulty sounding out words when learning to read
  • Reading comprehension problems in 4th or 5th grade
  • Listening difficulty with background noise
  • Cannot reliably follow multi-step directions
  • Takes too long over homework
  • Does not perform well on tests

Does your child exhibits 2 or more of these common signs of learning difficulty associated with inattentive ADD? If so, a learning intervention may be able to make all the difference.

Coping and Treatment Options for Inattentive ADHD

Most parents treat ADHD-Inattentive type 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, coping options. 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.

Treat The Cause of Difficulty

If your child has learning difficulties in addition to ADHD-PI symptoms, there is an opportunity to target the cause of the learning difficulty and thereby help both issues in one treatment – the learning difficulty and the ADD.

Learning difficulties are caused by cognitive skill gaps that will respond to exercise. By improving language processing and other cognitive skills, it is possible to significantly boost reading and learning efficiency. This is where Gemm Learning can help with its programs for ADHD.

If you have a question or would like to know if we can help your child, call a specialist for a free consult.

“Gemm’s 6 month program REALLY helped my son with dyslexia and ADHD. The material seemed easy to me, but it seemed to really help him improve. He went from many failing grades in 2nd grade to all B’s in 3rd grade. And 3rd grade in private school is no joke!! Deli who helped monitor his progress was a joy to work with. Thank you to the Gemm Learning team!!”

Tricia K.

Parent of 3rd grader, ADHD & dyslexia


Online reading test

“He was just re-tested, and there are no longer any signs of ADD or dyslexia. He is doing really well in his new school. I believe in life there are things where you get more than you pay for and things where you get less and Gemm Learning is definitely one of those things where you get more.”

Jack M.

Parent of 10th grader, ADD & dyslexia


“He is now attentive in [class]. He usually needed a personal invitation to listen. 🙂 I had to stop his reading curriculum because he could no longer comprehend anything he read. It was like he hit a wall. I can now give him anything on the fifth grade reading level and his comprehension is amazing!!! … He is thoroughly enjoying novels now and he can always answer the comprehension questions. The fact that he has the stamina for sitting and reading for hours is amazing! This is such a dramatic change!” 

Mellssa N.

Parent of inattentive 4th grader