Attention Deficit Disorder

What is ADD?

An attention-deficit disorder (ADD) is a developmental disorder characterized by developmentally inappropriate degrees of inattention, overactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms are neurologically-based, arise in early childhood, and are chronic in nature in most cases. Symptoms are not due to gross neurological impairment, sensory impairment, language or motor impairment, mental retardation, or emotional disturbance.

Three main traits characterize ADD: (1) poor sustained attention or vigilance; (2) impulsivity or difficulty delaying gratification; and (3) hyperactivity or poorly regulated activity. Increased variability of task performance and problems complying with rules are often key features.

What are some signs of inattention?

  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Difficulty sustaining attention
  • Loses things necessary for tasks
  • Insufficient attention to details
  • Appears disorganized
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Appears sluggish/drowsy
  • Appears forgetful
  • Often engages in daydreaming rather than attending
  • Appears apathetic, unmotivated to complete tasks
  • Appears “spacey,” preoccupied
  • Appears confused, lost in thought

What are some signs of overactivity-impulsivity?

  • Difficulty awaiting turn
  • Interrupts/intrudes
  • Blurts out answers
  • Difficulty playing quietly
  • Difficulty remaining seated
  • Excessive writhing or squirming
  • Fidgeting
  • Excessive talking

How prevalent is ADD?

Attention-deficit disorders affect approximately 3-5% of the childhood population. It has been estimated that 50-80% continue some degree of symptomatology into adulthood.

What is the difference between an Attention-Deficit Disorder and an Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

ADD with and without hyperactivity are separate and unique childhood disorders. They are not subtypes of an identical attention disturbance. It has been noted that children with ADD/-H are more frequently described as depressed, learning disabled, or “lazy” while children with ADD/+H are more frequently labeled as conduct or behavior disordered.

What is ADD?
Classroom Modifications for ADD and ADHD
Counseling and Education for Children with ADD or ADHD
What Conditions Might Be Confused With ADD?
What Conditions Commonly Co-Exist With ADD?
How can you tell if a child is having trouble because of problems such as stress or family problems or if it’s really ADD?
How can you tell if a child with learning disabilities also has ADD?
National Resources for ADD and ADHD Information
Recommended Reading

Referring to this article:
“Attention Deficit Disorder: What is ADD?” was written by C. J. Newton, MA, Learning Specialist and published in the (formerly Mental Health Journal in July, 1997. Parts of the article were published at the ADD/LD Resource Center web site (, owned and operated by the Institute for ADD and Learning, in 1995. C. J. Newton was the co-founder of the Institute for ADD and Learning, along with Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D. That web site no longer exists.

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