Let me begin by saying, that, there is disagreement among experts as to whether there is a difference between ADD and ADHD. Since that is the case, let us look at what each side says, assess the evidence we have based on the behaviours we see in our homes, our schools, or any other place where a form of the problem is manifested, and arrive at an intelligent decision. Disagreement among experts on any issue is not new. There are usually many positions to issues as misunderstood as neurological disorders.
What we know is ADHD shows hyperactive tendencies, while ADD expresses a slow processing ability. In both cases, attention deficit is at the center of the individual’s processing ability. The brain is not providing the energy required for normal functioning. In one case, the information that the brain receives is very disorganized and can be ambiguous. That confusion of information takes times to sort in an organized fashion. It causes the person to lag behind others who are functionally “normal.” As a child continues to fall behind his or her peers, the brain is beset with more information as the child attempts to understand a worsening dilemma. As one difficulty leads to another, frustration, doubt, embarrassment, shame, and several other emotions converge and add to the episodes going on in the brain. The overwhelming stress is too much to manage.
An ADHD diagnosis suggest that a child can be on the one hand very challenging and on the other hand very loving, delightful, thoughtful, and caring. Socially, these children find it difficult to make and keep friends, have a poor sense of self, find difficulty getting along with teachers and other adults. They can become depressed and may often seem to be quite rude, insensitive, anxious, and unwilling.
The brain is the organ that regulates all functions of the body. Children with ADHD experience brain functionality that is grossly inefficient. As the brain receives information, it is unable to move the messages along to the various parts of the body on time. This can cause inattention, inaction, inappropriate and argumentative behaviour, and a rash of school related problems, among them, sleepiness in class and problems retrieving information from stored memory.
There are some clear differences between ADD and ADHD as the manifestations show. If these disorders are similar, then, using the same approach in treating them is okay. However, if they are different, it reminds me of what Abraham Maslow said, that, if the ony tool you use is a hammer, then every problem begins to look like a nail.
The lives of our children are too precious for us not to take every precaution to be certain that we explore every conceivable and available way to deal with their ailment. A good place to begin to support our children is to transform the schools in which they are educated. Our current schools are not suited to deal with students who suffer from neurological disorders. Until that is addressed, I can see no improvement on the distant horizon.
I will discuss some ideas around teaching and learning that must change if our children will have the slightest of hope improving their social and academic lives.