Are ADD and ADHD the Same Thing?

NOTE: ADD and ADHD are often thought to be different conditions, but really, ADD is a sub-set or sub-type of ADHD. Below I'll explain the connection between the two.

For many years, ADD and ADHD were considered separate conditions, by both the health community and parents. In 1994, the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) revised its criteria. ADD technically disappeared, and now falls under the umbrella of ADHD. The DSM may have changed, but many still are not clear about it! Here's the real scoop:

There are three different types of ADHD:

  • ADHD-Predominately Inattentive. Symptoms include difficulty paying attention, lack of follow-through, trouble with organization, easily distracted, forgetful, reluctant to start and finish tasks requiring sustained attention (such as homework).
  • ADHD-Predominately Hyperactive. Symptoms include restlessness, a motor always turned to “Turbo,” incessant chatter, fidgeting, trouble waiting his/her turn, interrupting others, difficulty sitting still, and impulsive behavior.
  • ADHD-Combined. This is a combination of both inattentive and hyperactive types.

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All Kids with ADD Have ADHD

The belief that ADD and ADHD are distinct conditions is still prevalent. We hear from parents all the time that their child doesn’t fidget, doesn’t act impulsively, and isn’t restless, so they don't know if we can help them.

But if a child sits quietly in school and doesn't act out, they can still have ADHD!

Consider this:

  • When you send your kid to his room to get his baseball mitt, he forgets why he’s up there.
  • He never remembers where his glasses are, or his socks, or his school books.
  • He doesn’t pay attention when you’re trying to help him with his homework, or giving directions.

Does a distracted child still have ADHD?

Yes, indeed!

In the psychology and health world, ADD and ADHD are technically the same. No, your Predominately Inattentive child will not begin to look like a child with Hyperactivity. Rather, your inattentive child is unique and will have symptoms and challenges that are uniquely theirs. They will also have their own strengths, and be influenced by their own parents.

Every child is different, and the support that you might need to put into place for any child with ADHD — inattentive child, hyperactive, or both – is going to change over time as your child’s needs change! It is going to be different this year than it was last year.

There is no one “solution” for ADHD. What we know is that kids thrive with a multimodal, multi-pronged approach to treatment and management. A range of supports (those considered treatment for ADHD are *starred* below) can include:

  • Parent training*
  • Medications*
  • Coaching*
  • Special education*
  • School Accommodations (IEP, 504s)*
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy*
  • Talk therapy
  • Tutoring
  • Social skills groups

Parent training, including coaching, is an effective treatment and management tool. When you have the tools you need to manage your kid, you can help the, develop and use the tools they need to manage challenges and life with ADHD. It is exciting to see research confirming that parent training helps parents not only manage better, but decrease their own stress levels and increase their self-esteem.

The specific interventions that will work best for you child will vary depending on what’s happening behaviorally, but many kids with ADHD are successful with a whole range of support – and with parents who are empowered and confident.

So, if you are at your wit’s end with ADD – if your wit’s end had its own end – yes, we can still help you help your kid!

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