Basic Facts About ADHD (ADD)

Patients often come in to my office asking for a basic, simple book or other materials about ADHD. They suspect they may have ADHD (or ADD as some call it) and want to know where to begin. "Where can I find some simple information about ADHD?" I have one good suggestion for a source of ADHD information, it's the New York Times' ADHD web site. It's full of great information, videos from parents and adults with ADHD and articles by leaders in the field of ADHD. Here is the link: Regretfully the web if full... really full...of misinformation, bad ideas and science doubting nonsense when it comes to ADHD. A simple search will bring you to stuff that is often more wrong than right, usually placed there to go with an ad for a naturalistic health solution that has no backing what-so-ever. So try this Times page. It's simple, clear, personal and science based. While ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood it is regretfully not the most well understood disorder in our schools, or by our family doctors. It is also not the most highly funded. Very few school districts provide any training for teachers in dealing with ADHD in the classroom. And school psychologist, in most jurisdictions, aren't allowed to diagnoses it, so getting school based help involves two different systems of services, the school and either a private psychologist or medical doctor. ADHD affects about 3 - 5% of school aged children. ADHD is diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls and is actually often overlooked in girls. Yes, there are some problems getting an appropriate diagnosis, so go to a mental health practitioner who focuses on ADHD. Science demonstrates that ADHD may run in families, but it is not clear exactly what causes it. Whatever the cause of ADHD may be, it seems to be set in motion early in life as the brain is developing. Imaging studies suggest that the brains of children with ADHD are different from those of other children. But these brain scans are not, regretfully, useful in diagnosis. Diagnosis is made through clinical history and observation. Depression, lack of sleep, learning disabilities, tic disorders, and behavior problems may be confused with, or appear with, ADHD (co-morbid is the term used in mental health). Every child, adolescent or adult suspected of having ADHD should be carefully examined by a doctor to rule out these possible other conditions or reasons for the behaviour. Often this is more than can be done in a regular doctor's office, but it's critical to good diagnostics. Most children with ADHD also have at least one other developmental or behavioral problem. They may also have a psychiatric problem, such as depression, learning disabilities (almost 50%!) or bipolar disorder. A full psychoeducational assessment is almost always appropriate with children, or adults moving into the workplace. This helps us understand the strengths and weaknesses we ALL have, and how this individual might use their strengths to overcome weaknesses. It also helps us understand what skills and tools might be particular difficult for the individual with ADHD and guides our treatment interventions. ADHD isn't caused by poor parenting - but if you have a child with ADHD you most lively will need to learn some special parenting skills. Same with teachers - it's not caused by the teacher, but a teacher with 2 or 3 children with ADHD in his or her classroom needs to learn and use some special techniques and interventions they may not be familiar with. Sugar and diet are usually unrelated to the ADHD behaviours. TV watching and excessive video game playing doesn't cause ADHD, but it doesn't help and usually makes things worse. There is little research supporting diet changes or supplements as having any effect on ADHD, in spite of the hundreds and thousands of web pages that suggest and try to sell you these products or books about these products. Your best bet is to find a well informed psychologist or paediatrician to work with you in developing a treatment plan to help you deal directly with the symptoms of ADHD. I provide both diagnostic services and therapy for children, adolescents and adults with ADHD in my offices in Burnaby, Vancouver and San Francisco. Please visit my web page for more information and feel free to contact me for further information. Dr. Jim Roche