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What is ADHD and who diagnoses it?

Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is defined as a combination of significant difficulties in the following areas: maintaining attention, focusing on relevant stimuli, paying attention to details, high distractibility, organizing, forgetfulness, losing possessions, etc... A portion of the children impaired by this disorder show, in addition, characteristics of impulsivity and hyperactivity: restlessness, a need to move, difficulty waiting in line, speaking without thinking, etc...

Experts in the field, i.e., neurologists and child psychiatrists, diagnose ADHD.

I'm the mother of a 12-year-old boy who's been diagnosed with ADHD. I would like to ask if there is some sort of alternate treatment, instead of medication, that's already been proven statistically?

Firstly, pharmacological treatment is always given together with emotional therapy, because children with ADHD often have emotional problems as well. Secondly, parents have the right to check a) different types of pharmacological treatment, b) different sorts of alternative treatments, for example: homeopathy, biofeedback, and c) together with pharmacological treatment, we frequently recommend trying treatment with martial arts, for example, where the child learns to regulate self-control, which can be wonderful as an additional aspect of a treatment program.

My son is seven-years-old. The teacher suggested that he might have ADHD. The neurologist suggested giving the TOVA test. What is the TOVA test?

The TOVA test checks for the presence of ADHD by testing the ability of the child to sustain performance of a long task. This test is computerized and is based on the analysis of responses to stimuli - omissions, additions, errors, etc... The child observes what's represented on the computer screen for a set period of time, and he is supposed to respond to one type of stimulus and to ignore the other type. The test measures the speed and accuracy of the processing of information that the child performs by means of comparing the results to norms characterizing children of his age.

The main measures this test checks are:

1.       Attention/Lack of Attention - correct responses and incorrect responses to the intended stimulus

2.       Impulsivity - incorrect responses to unintended stimuli

3.       Response time - the amount of time need for the brain to react to the stimulus. The speed is very important since children who suffer from ADHD are much slower. Similarly, the speed responds well to medication.

4.       Change in response time - does the brain react consistently or inconsistently to stimuli. This is the most sensitive measure since children suffering from ADHD show before anything else a lack of consistency in responses to stimuli.

The second part of the TOVA is evaluating the effectiveness of drug treatment. The most accepted drug treatment is with Ritalin, both because of its effectiveness and also because of its short response time. Performance of the test without treatment, then afterwards under the influence of Ritalin, allows receiving an objective estimation of the effectiveness of drug treatment.

My son is 13 years old. He was diagnosed as having a learning disability already at five years of age and since then has been treated continually. He has a problem that every noise in class bothers him (whether it's a pencil that falls, a child walking past in the hallway, etc.). Despite my requests of professionals (Attention Deficit in Schneider and also TOVA test) they disregarded the topic of Ritalin. I wanted to know if there's another way to help him. I understand that there's a special computer program for children with attention and concentration problems. I'd like to hear more about this topic.

Sensitivity to noise, indeed, is not an attention disorder, and therefore, an improved program of evaluation of all types of attention will not help your son. Perhaps, biofeedback treatment can help in decreasing the sensitivity.

Biofeedback is a treatment method, which can decrease different bodily reactions. The method works by means of guided imagination and different relaxation techniques.

My 17-year-olds room is always a mess, which causes serious conflicts between us. According to you opinion, is this connected to the ADHD he was diagnosed with? And if so, do I imply need to give in? By the way, he's not being treated with medication.

A messy room characterizes many adolescents and it isn't necessarily connected to ADHD. If, in addition to the messiness you describe, your son has difficulty with organization such as his school bag, time, etc., then coaching can help him.

I'm 60 years old and I've probably suffered from ADHD my whole life. Is it still possible to be treated at my age? Can this really bring about a change? I would like to go learn in university?

ADHD can be diagnosed at different ages, and without a doubt if you desire to learn, then it's possible to help you. At Nitzan, there is a multidisciplinary center that offers assistance to people with ADHD of all ages. We work with a child specialist and with an adult specialist.

Does the lack of appetite, which is caused as a result of taking Concerta, remain always? My daughter is 17 years old; she doesn't eat almost anything during the day. What should we do besides giving her vitamins?

Indeed, the different types of Ritalin, including Concerta, cause a decrease in appetite. Occasionally, it's possible to overcome this side effect by means of eating before taking the pill and after its effect has worn off. If there is a problem, then your daughter should return to the doctor who is treating her and consider taking Ritalin, which is active for shorter periods of time.

My daughter is 10 years old. At school, there are a lot of complaints about her not "paying attention". The counselor even recommended going for an evaluation for ADHD. The teachers complain that she disturbs, chats, and is busy with her matters. In contrast to this, my daughter can sink into reading a book for a long time in her room, play games with her dolls, or sit fascinated by the television. Does she have ADHD perhaps, and if so, how is it that at home she is so different from at school?

According to the international evaluation code, in order to diagnose ADHD, it must be present in two different places, but not necessarily at home. How does your daughter behave in after-school activities, in youth groups and the like?

In any case, it's a good idea to take your daughter for an evaluation in order to understand the behaviors at school and to help her improve her functioning.

My son learns in 4th grade. His teacher claims that lately attention problems have begun in class and she recommends taking him for an evaluation. However, he has high grades on exams; his conduct at home is wonderful. As far as I know, when there are attention problems, there are also behavioral problems. It's difficult for me to understand why an evaluation for ADHD would be necessary. I'd be happy to hear your opinion.

Even though behavioral disorders accompany ADHD in many cases, they are not the same thing. Considerable amounts of children with ADHD do not have behavioral disorders.

It's not clear to us which problems the teacher is referring to, but grades are not always the measuring scale. It would be worthwhile to speak with your son and to clarify with him if he feels any difficulty, and if there is a difficulty, then to go to conduct an evaluation.

I am 27 years old and learn computers. I have ADHD and the truth is that it's really hard for me. It's hard for me to concentrate. I don't know what to do in order to get through the studies and if it was even a good idea that I went to study. What's the best way to get through my studies? Maybe I should dropout, because in class I'm not successful.

We don't have a doubt that there are many ways to help you, and certainly the way isn't to dropout. The first stage is an evaluation, both in the areas of attention difficulties and learning difficulties. Afterwards, it will be possible to construct for you a treatment program.