Defining Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) Without Hyperactivity

ADD can make it difficult for students to focus and complete tasks

A girl distracted by her cell phone.
A girl distracted by her cell phone. Sam Bloomberg-Rissman/Getty Images

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a neurological disorder that causes a range of behavior problems such as difficulty attending to instruction, focusing on schoolwork, keeping up with assignments, following instructions, completing tasks and social interaction.

ADD may also involve hyperactivity with behavior problems. In addition, students with ADD may have learning disabilities and are often at risk for repeated disciplinary problems in schools.

In fact, adults and peers alike may conclude that such students are lazy because of their inattention to tasks and failure to follow through with assignments.

Learn more about ADD, its symptoms and treatment with this review. While ADD is extremely common, misperceptions about the disorder continue to circulate.

Why ADD Differs From ADHD

ADD does not manifest itself in the same way that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) does, but the two conditions are often discussed as if they're the same. This is concerning because students with the conditions exhibit different symptoms.

Children with ADHD, for example, tend to act out or exhibit behavior problems in class. Children with ADD are generally not disruptive in school. They may even sit in class quietly, but that doesn't mean their disorder isn't a problem and that they're not struggling to focus.

How ADD Is Treated

ADD is sometimes treated with stimulant medications such as Ritalin.

In some cases, stimulant medications can help students with ADD stay on-task and focused. However, some stimulant medications have been associated with serious side effects. As a result, many parents hesitate to use Ritalin, Adderall or other medications to treat ADD.

Whether or not parents choose to medicate their children, most physicians and child psychologists suggest that a behavior intervention plan should be developed to help teach kids adaptive behavior skills and reduce off-task and inattentive behaviors.

This may be even more helpful than drug use, especially because some students diagnosed with ADD or ADHD actually don't have these conditions but behave as if they do due to personal or family problems. Behavior intervention plans can help students with problem behaviors, whether they actually have ADD or exhibit ADD-like behaviors.

Common Characteristics of ADD Without Hyperactivity

Children with ADD without the hyperactivity component may appear to be bored or disinterested in classroom activities. They may be prone to daydreaming or forgetfulness, work at a slow pace and turn in incomplete work.

Their assignment may look disorganized as well as their desks and locker spaces. They may lose materials at school and at home or misplace schoolwork and fail to turn in assignments. This can frustrate teachers, parents and result in the child earning poor marks in class. Behavior intervention may counter the child's forgetfulness.

Wrapping Up

If you suspect your child has ADD with or without hyperactivity, talk to your child's school counselor, teacher or physician about appropriate treatment.

They may evaluate your child for the disorder and help you take the steps necessary to ensure that your child succeeds in the classroom. Early intervention can prevent the disorder from taking a detrimental toll on a child's life.

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