inattentive adhd treatment
inattentive add treatment

Inattentive ADHD

Symptoms and treatment for ADD, ADHD-PI

Inattentive ADHD is most often the symptom of a deeper learning issue

ADHD (or ADD is widely diagnosed because so many learning problems have ADHD-like symptoms. A lack of focus, e.g., drifting off in class, and/or hyperactivity are avoidance behaviors that most often stem from an inability to read or to understand.

To resolve ADHD, notice when ADHD symptoms are present – are the activities all related to reading or learning?  Oftentimes, the answer to ADHD is not medication, it’s a learning intervention that aims to resolve the underlying difficulty permanently.

Types of Inattentive ADHD

There are two types of ADHD according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5.  Inattentive ADD or ADHD-PI (Predominantly Inattentive)  and ADHD-PH (Predominantly Hyperactive).

Hyperactivity and Inattentiveness Have Different Root Causes

ADHD-Hyperactive type (used to be called Hyperkinetic disorder) often occurs when there are sensory integration or brain chemistry issues. Whereas, ADHD-Inattentive type is almost always due to language processing delays (LPD), which makes:

  • Listening in class exhausting — children tune out
  • Phonemes inside words hard to pick out – impeding reading
  • Homework a trial

Language processing inefficiencies also impact social situations, e.g., listening in a noisy playground can be a real challenge.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of ADD

There are various types of attention to consider. Sustained attention is the ability to stay on task. 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.

In early life, periods of hyperactivity or inattentiveness are not abnormal when children come up against challenges and choose to tune out or act out.

The real clue of ADHD is impulsive behaviors — the dangerous jump, the blurted insult. Here are three checklists of ADHD symptoms based on the three main traits of ADHD-PI: (1) inattentiveness, (2) hyperactivity, and (3) impulsivity.

(1) Inattentive Symptoms of ADD or ADHD-PI

Children with inattentive symptoms of ADHD-PI often go under the radar since they tend not to disrupt. However, their symptoms have consequences: upsetting teachers and parents for not following directions; apparently under-achieving in school; or having run-ins with classmates over 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.

(2) Hyperactive Symptoms of ADHD

Hyperactivity in a child is much harder to ignore. Here is a 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
  • Had difficulty learning to ride a bike
  • Struggles with hand to eye skills like catching a ball

Hyperactive symptoms of ADHD can be ambiguous in younger children. There is a lot more 5-year-old-itis than ADHD-PH.

The last two items on the above checklist – balance and hand-to-eye difficulties — look for ADHD by looking signs of sensory integration issues that show up in physical balance and coordination skills but that also cause ADHD.  Many of these children respond to Occupational Therapy (OT) and exercise treatments that improve coordination, like Interactive Metronome.

(3) Impulsivity Symptoms of ADD

Impulsivity causes social problems for children with ADD symptoms. They are prone to making tactless comments or asking overly personal questions.  Here is a list of symptoms of impulsivity in children:

  • Interrupts conversation 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 ADHD symptoms can stem from sensory or processing overload, but can also relate to emotional or other background issues.  While impulse control can be trained somewhat, targeting the source of difficulty here is more challenging.

Is it Something Else?

Before resorting to medication, talk to teachers, neighbors and carefully observe your child in different situations. Certain medical conditions, psychological disorders, and stressful life events can cause symptoms that look like ADD or ADHD-Inattentive type.  Try to rule out these possibilities:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Life difficulties — such as bullying or trauma
  • Psychological or behavioral disorders — such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder
  • Medical conditions — including thyroid problems, neurological conditions, nutritional issues and sleep disorders

Sometimes counselling or a new diet can make a world of difference. And if the lack of focus does relate to a learning delay, a learning intervention can be effective.

Signs the ADHD Is Learning Related

It’s chicken and egg. Is ADHD slowing down learning or are the learning issues causing the ADHD symptoms?  As stated above, most often it’s the latter.  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

If your child exhibits 2 or more of these common signs of learning difficulty, a learning intervention may make all the difference.

Coping vs Treating 

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.

These approaches work on symptoms only. They help ADHD by modifying behavior and changing habits. They do not address the source of the problem.

Treat the Underlying Difficulty and the ADHD

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

Learning difficulties are generally caused by cognitive skill gaps that will respond to exercise. Gemm Learning has programs for ADHD that work on underlying cognitive skills and on specific attention skills, such as selective attention and impulse control.

If you would like to know if we can help your child, check our our ADD programs here or call a specialist for a free consult.

“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

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“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

“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