ADHD is one of the most researched and prevalent childhood brain disorders. When considering the question “Is ADHD a learning disability or mental illness?” many factors must be considered. When a child begins to display certain symptoms, such as inability to focus, restlessness, and hyperactivity, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is usually suspected. Parents begin to wonder, is ADHD a learning disability? Is ADHD a mental illness? How will my child cope with the symptoms of ADHD? What can I do to help my child?

Simply put, if a person has a condition that inhibits mental functioning or causes significant mental impairment to the point that it interferes with basic executive functioning skills, the condition is classified as a psychiatric disorder. ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is classified as a psychiatric disorder and the symptoms often continue through adolescence into adulthood.


Symptoms of ADHD

There are three subtypes when identifying the symptoms of ADHD. The three subtypes are predominately hyperactive-impulsive, predominately inattentive, and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. Studies have shown that most children have the combined type of ADHD. Symptoms are as diversified as the children who have the disorder, but most children with ADHD display some or all of the following symptoms consistently for 6 months or more with greater frequency than their peers of the same age.

• Inability to focus
• Easily distracted
• Struggles to follow instructions
• Difficulty completing tasks
• Daydreaming and “tuning out” what he doesn’t want to hear
• Fidgeting and squirming in seat
• Non-stop talking
• Must be constantly moving, touching things and disturbing classmates
• Unable to sit still for longer than a few minutes
• Verbal outbursts when frustrated
• Constantly losing personal items
• Difficulty processing information
• Impatience
• Unable to wait for a desired outcome or for his turn when playing
• Interrupts conversations
• Displays emotions that are often inappropriate
• No apparent regard for consequences of actions
• Makes careless mistakes
• No regard for consequences


How the ADHD Brain Works

Studies have indicated that many people with ADHD have higher than average IQ’s. Researchers have strived to figure out exactly how the ADHD brain works. Most of us are generally able to determine what tasks are most important in our daily schedules, and we motivate ourselves to get those important tasks done in the order of priority. A person with ADHD has difficulty prioritizing, and finds it even harder to complete a task. People with ADHD want to get the task done but they usually can’t seem to get started until the situation becomes overly challenging or urgent.

Children with ADHD are procrastinators by nature of the disorder. That’s why you find yourself running out to get poster board for your child at 10 o’clock on Sunday night, before the science project due date on Monday morning. Children with ADHD have four or five things going on in their minds at once. Too often they can’t determine which is the most important at the proper time.


What Causes ADHD?

Scientists are not sure exactly what causes ADHD, but some studies indicate that there may be a genetic link to the disorder. As research continues, learning about a genetic predisposition to the disease can lead to better treatment and maybe even prevention of the disorder before it occurs.

Brain injuries are also being studied to determine whether the occurrence of ADHD might be the result of such an injury. Good nutrition is important to good health. Scientists are studying the diets of pregnant women and young children to see if there might be a link between what we eat and ADHD. The social environment is also being considered as the quest for answers continues.

Environmental factors, such as alcohol use, drug use and smoking during pregnancy may indicate a potential link to the development of ADHD.

A recent British study was conducted to determine whether food additives such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, or artificial food coloring may have a potential link to hyperactivity in children.

According to the National Institute on Health, ADHD occurs four times more in boys than in girls, and the number of children being diagnosed with ADHD is increasing steadily but no one is sure why. The average age of onset is 7 years old. Subtle symptoms can begin to surface as early as age 3, but are usually dismissed as normal childhood behavior.


Living With The Disorder

Living with ADHD is a challenge for those with the disorder as well as their parents and families because the child’s ADHD disrupts lives and schedules of all in the household, parental time and energy are required to help the child manage their symptoms, and there is added tension in parent-child interactions.

C8 Sciences continues their ongoing research and development of the ACTIVATE™ program to help children with ADHD improve their executive function and reduce their symptoms. The home version of the program was developed so parents and their children could work together and enjoy activities that build executive function, self-confidence, self-esteem and academic success. Together, we will make great strides in developing programs that will lead to your child’s success not only at home, but in school and other social environments.