Does My Child Have ADHD?

Parent Q&A

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  • Bad parenting & ADHD

    Sep 10, 2023

    Kids behave differently with mom than with dad. Similarly, some kids have terrible time with one teacher, but then have a great time with the next teacher. To what extent does this apply to ADHD or ASD symptoms? Is it possible that a child would show symptoms only with one parent, but not with the other? With one teacher but not with the other? And do you think this can rule out a condition? 
    I’m asking this question because I want to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis in case we decide to evaluate.

    Neither ASD nor ADHD is caused by “bad parenting”. Both ADHD and ASD will have symptoms that vary in severity, can be quite complex, and will not likely “look the same” at various times. The only way a diagnosis can be made is by a medical professional, and these diagnoses also evaluate input from parents and teachers (not just one of either group, unless it is a single parent family). It sounds like there are enough concerns that a diagnosis is warranted; there are treatments for both conditions (which also not infrequently go hand in hand, and can be confused with one another while things are being sorted out).  Best of luck.

    It is completely normal for children to act differently with different people - parents, teachers, etc. That is also true of kiddos with ADHD and ASD. In order to have a diagnosis of ADHD or ASD, then typically symptoms have to be "pervasive" but that does not mean symptoms are always present or always the same. They just may vary to different degrees between location, person, time of day, other factors, etc. Very large swings in behavior could also be considered a symptom of either ADHD/ASD. I am not a neuropsychologist though so if you're concerned then you should do the evaluation. I also think it's interesting you titled this "bad parenting and ADHD"..... "bad" parenting does not cause ADHD, but you and your co-parent may need more resources, training, education, support to better parent your unique child.

    hi~ this topic is near and dear to my heart. I have a 14 year old son with ADHD -- late diagnosed, which in turn also diagnosed my husband with ADHD (77%+ genetic component so makes complete sense especially with our history).  They both have the inattentive type and my son is actually academically gifted but has a challenge in specific classes.  I am happy to discuss my experience, resources and strategies if it helps. Feel free to PM me.

    Good question! I would say this was the case with my older child, now a young adult. Also, they could often hold it together at school, then completely fall apart at home. Apparently this is quite common with gifted children with ADD. Unfortunately, it also meant their behavior at home was blamed on parenting. Also worth noting is that many people with ADD and ASD also experience high levels of anxiety which can contribute to the dynamic you describe. They can manage their behavior better around people they feel comfortable with and trust because they feel less anxious. The conditions and the co-occuring conditions can be very difficult to tease apart. At the end of the day, it may not be necessary to do so. Compassion, understanding, and patience is critical. Skills can be learned (by the child and those who teach and care for them) to address the behaviors. There are no easy answers or simple diagnoses. I highly recommend Dr. Howard Hallowell's books on ADD.

    ASD and ADHD are both biological conditions and are part of who the child is, so they will be part of a child's way of interacting with the world, in any situation.  However, the environment also plays a role in how the ADHD and ASD show up for the child in the world.  Neurodiverse children do need different parenting and teaching responses to be successful in a neurotypical world.  So, yes, it's very possible that a child would have more difficulty with one parent or one teacher than another.  I would caution against saying this is because one teacher or parent is "bad." It's more likely that their parenting or teaching style is a mismatch for what the child needs--and this may be because they don't understand what the child needs to be successful.  The ADHD or ASD won't go away with a different parent or different teacher--but if that person is better at accommodating or supporting the child's needs, then there may be less conflict or problems.  A good psychologist will be able to help evaluate the child by directly working with the child, and asking multiple caregivers and teachers to report on the child's characteristics and behaviors in different situations. 

    We just went through this. Our ADHD child is VERY sensitive to environment.  I wish I had realized this sooner. She had a bad classroom in 3rd (lots of disruption and low expectations) and now has a great 4th grade classroom. Her schoolwork is like night and day.   Also, she is defiant towards one parent and respectful towards the other.  She is also very sensitive to any sort of negativity due to low self-esteem.  So we try to keep it really positive at home.   I would not delay evaluation because mood dysregulation can be a symptom of ADHD.  It feels great, btw, to know what is going on for your child and not to be in the dark anymore.  The child can feel great relief, too, that someone actually understands what they've been experiencing. 

    Autistic adult with one kid diagnosed autistic and the other strongly suspected autistic + ADHD; I can say with confidence that neurodivergent kids, just like everybody else, act differently in different contexts. If your kid feels more comfortable with one teacher than another, their behavior might be dramatically different.

    Both of my kids are prone to selective mutism (not talking) in new contexts. Neither engaged with anyone (teachers, classmates) at preschool for MONTHS after starting school. Both are very, very social and chatty when people come to our home, even people they don't know well. I have one kid who is much MUCH more likely to have a classic-looking meltdown outside the house because he's out of his safe space/surrounded by "unsafe" people, and another who masks heavily whenever she's out of the house and melts down at home because she's safe. So it really depends to a huge extent on the kid.

    If you're planning to have your kids evaluated, I'd say just answer the evaluator's questions honestly. Do some research before you go in, as some evaluators aren't great at providing a range of examples for the required behaviors to get the right number of "points" to get a diagnosis.

    My son has ADHD and reacts differently to everyone and especially teachers. 

    Thanks for the insight! I totally agree that environment is a trigger. I had a friend with Tourette syndrome and you could tell when stress caused her symptoms to show. 

  • Hi Fellow BPNers, 

    I am not sure if I am looking for advice or reassurance but am feeling a bit overwhelmed by a recent situation. 

    We have a wonderful kindergarten boy who is on the younger end (late April) due to a large amount of children participating in TK. He started kinder just over 6 weeks ago and it has gone as smooth as we could have expected. The class is great, we really like his teacher, only 17 in his class, etc. 

    However, we have begun to notice that our son is a bit more "distracted" than his classmates. We volunteer in class and notice that he seems to be on the later end of finishing work, he is always the one talking and worrying about what others are doing and just not being able to sit still for any length of time. When he entered kinder I realized that he would be on the younger end in our district and that our own focus on play and discovery in preschool may leave him slightly behind, but now we are concerned less about academic gains and more about his lack of focus. Don't get me wrong, 5 year old boys never sit still but I have noticed he struggles to stay keyed in on a task for more than 4 or 5 minutes. We brought this up to his teacher and she said she did see some of our concerns and would be happy to provide some tools to work on expanding his focus. 

    My husband struggled with ADHD his entire life and was not diagnosed until late elementary school. He feels that his lack of diagnosis early on made him feel like he was simply a bad student and that he would always struggle in school. I certainly do not ever want our son to feel like he is struggling, behind or "different" but also don't want to push for something like an ADD diagnosis that may simply be him being an immature boy. 

    So my question BPN is what should we do? Is it okay to just say, we will wait for a few months and see how things progress? Or should I ask the school to have him tested ASAP with the understanding that if they find something early intervention is always best?

    We really want our son to love learning and don't want him to stress out but also are not interested in giving him unnecessary labels that could follow him in the future...

    Any advice is greatly appreciated.


    Confused mama

    Why not get him assessed?  As the mom of a (wonderful, btw) kid who was diagnosed with ADHD very late, I can only say if there's one thing I could turn back the clock and do over, it would be getting our kid in for testing MUCH earlier than we did. What would be the harm in knowing, getting services  started earlier rather than later, and setting him off on the best path you can?  BTW, April is not a "late" birthday, it's smack in the middle (towards the "older" end if anything) of school district cut-offs. I can't understand why you'd question a his in general, but then with your husbands own experience...

    Your child could also be acting up a bit because you are in the room.  I definitely noticed this when I volunteered in my kid's pre-school back in the day.  Kids get excited when their parents are present.

    My son had similar issues in kindergarten. In fact, it's as if you were describing him when he was that age. We didn't worry about it. We didn't worry because we knew he could focus and concentrate on one thing if he really loved it. For instance, he was able to take apart old electronics with a screw driver for as long as an hour without distraction. Also, he was able to hear whatever anyone said even if he was busy doing something else. So think about whether or not your son is able to focus on something at all, outside school. If he has the ability, then I don't think you have to worry. School is very distracting and only now, second grade, is my son able to fully focus in class. Of course this is purely my own experience and yours could be very different, I'm only explaining what mine was like.
    I would like to add that while it's reasonable to worry about adhd because of your husband, try not to go directly to that assumption. I think we all too easily attribute our kid's behaviors to our own without much thought and that may lead to us having expectations for them to be a certain way which isn't fair to them. I hope this helps!

    Dear confused mama, There's little downside to having your son tested and learning more information about who he is. But as your husband's experience attests, there ARE downsides to not having a diagnosis and access to available tools and therapy. The early grades are when kids learn to read, and it can be a significant struggle to catch up if they miss out on that early practice. We were in a very similar situation to yours in that my daughter had a late birthday and was coming from a play-based preK, which meant that it was hard to interpret her behavior in K as being truly "behind" or just immature and less experienced with an academic curriculum. By 1st grade, however, the inattentiveness was very clear, and was already creating problems for her academically. I wish we'd tested earlier. Remember also that you can choose to share any "label" you might receive with anyone, or no one. For example, if you test outside the school system, you don't have to tell the school OR your son. If you test within the school system, the school might know, but individual teachers may or may not have access to the information, and you don't have to tell your son necessarily at all. We didn't start talking with our daughter about her ADHD until closer to 3rd grade, in part because we didn't want her to feel different. (By 3rd grade, though, she was starting to notice her differences and wanted to take more ownership of the issue.) So just because you pursue testing and information doesn't necessarily doom your son to being permanently labeled. There are many intermediate steps along the way.

    Best of luck to you.

    Hi - sorry to hear you're going through this. I am a former speech therapist and elementary school teacher, who worked with lots of ADHD kids, and I have a teenage daughter who has Executive Dysfunction, mild ADD, major depression and addiction issues. From when she was 5 I knew something was not right, which only increased with the years. It took until she was a teenager to get a correct diagnosis.  So here's my advice to you, coming from both sides of the fence, so to speak:  From what you're saying, your instinct is correct.  What you need to know is that yes, the school is obligated under federal law to assess your child and provide an IEP (Individual Education Program) in a multidisciplinary context that includes you as part of the process.  This does not mean that you are obligated to go to the school for initial assessment. What I suggest, if you have the resources and good insurance, is to find a child psychologist who specializes in these issues and have them assess your young child first. You then have the choice of presenting that to the school for further action, engaging in private treatment that the school knows nothing about, or continuing a wait-and-see approach. At any time in your child's school career, these options all remain in effect. You can pull the trigger whenever you want to.  So my best advice is try private resources first, unless and until you feel your child needs more support in the school environment. And if you don't have access to private resources, then get with the school psychologist to put the wheels in motion. Don't wait, though, the sooner the better. Also get the name of a good education lawyer for future reference, frequently they're needed to push the school district into following the IEP process appropriately. Good luck and best wishes.

    Hi Confused Mama,
    I have an 11 year old with ADHD. It was clear he was more unfocused and distracted than other kids even in pre-school, but I waited until he was in third grade to address it. By then we had heard from his Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade teachers that he was very difficult in class and then his 3rd grade teacher said the same thing. He began medication halfway through 3rd grade and almost overnight became a kid that all the teachers loved—focused, interested, hard-working in class. And he became much happier as well because he was no longer being shunned by the other kids for being "too much."

    Having said that, however, I don't regret waiting until 3rd grade to have him assessed. I wanted to give him plenty of time to adjust to school, to see if he would grow out of it, to see if he was just taking longer to mature. I do think Kindergarten is very, very young to pigeonhole a kid, even if he does have some symptoms and even if there is a family history of ADHD.

    I would encourage you to give your son at least through 1st grade to just be himself and so if things sort themselves out.

    Best of luck

    ADHD mom

    Hi - I totally get it and wish I'd had my daughter tested right away.  She's now 15 and showed all the signs in kindergarten, exactly like your son (who's just super smart and creative by the way).  I highly recommend that you get him tested and just get on with having him be empowered and love learning.  I was afraid of labeling my daughter and she really struggled through school unncessarily!

     Also, I highly recommend Amy Cheiftetz, an amazing Educational Therapist who specializes in ADHD.  She's all about empowering children, having them love learning and having the whole family thrive as well.  She works with children and families, and she has also has a great support group for parents.  She's been a miracle worker for us!  Her contact info: Amy Cheifetz: 510-207-2995.  Good luck and remember your son is awesome! :)

    ADHD diagnosis can be a bit of a racket. It involves a very expensive evaluation. As the mother of an ADHD son, I wish I'd known that there's an inexpensive and foolproof way to find out whether or not your kid has it. See if your internist will prescribe one Ritalin tablet. Then watch your son for the next four hours (the drug will be entirely out of his system after that -- it's short acting).

    If you son becomes calmer and more focused, bingo. If he becomes more energized, he doesn't have it.

    The earlier you can know for sure, the more successful your son's academic and social progress will be. I wish we'd known sooner than 3rd grade -- our kid was developing low self esteem due to his ADHD related struggles.

    I was, like most parents, reluctant to medicate, but it became clear that our son welcomed the diagnosis, and the meds. They helped him.

    Also, I wish I'd given him an extra year of preschool so that he could be more mature when 'real school" started. 

    Hope this helps.

    The best place to start is with your pediatrician.  Talk with your pediatrician about your concerns and make sure to tell him/her about the family history of ADHD. Your pediatrician can rule out ADHD or give you a referral to another physician or psychiatrist that specializes in ADHD.  When our child was diagnosed, the evaluation was very thorough.  The pediatrician did want to wait until my child was 6 years old and he was having problems both at home and in school to give a definitive diagnosis.  You can talk to your pediatrician and decide if it makes sense to wait and see, but if the teacher already sees the lack of focus, then you might not need to wait.  The school can evaluate your child, but only a doctor can give a diagnosis of ADHD.  

    If you child does have ADHD, then you can figure out  how to support him.  My kid really does well with medication and some accommodations in class.  The idea of getting a "label" was scary at first, but it's up to you who you want to tell.  There is real help available for kids with ADHD, and it's well worth the effort and diagnosis.

    Good luck!

    My son just started second grade and I could easily have written your question two years ago (in fact I think I did!). I decided to just wait it out since although he had trouble focusing he was still able to learn (basically his first grade teacher uses that as a guideline for intervention). He struggled moderately all through first grade and had some times toward he end of the year when he said he hated school. He was late learning to read as well. He kinda clicked on the reading over the summer and he seems to have matured a bit and now he's fine. When I talked to his guidance counselor late first grade she said that they really need to be getting down to business by third grade (when they start getting actual grades) and so if he hadn't kinda matured into things by mid second grade, he should be evaluated. But like most things, he was simply a late bloomer and he's doing fine. My relaxed attitude about it helped, I think. Rather than single him out for testing and freaking out I just gave him room to grow and I'm glad I waited it out. 

    My son has Inattentive ADD. We had no idea until we consulted with a developmental pediatrician when he was in 3rd grade. We knew something was off - all his teachers from preschool on up had remarked how he seemed not to hear them, it was hard to draw him in to classroom activities, he couldn't complete tasks, and by 2nd grade he was still not reading well. We thought it must be a combination of extreme shyness and dyslexia, because we didn't know anything about inattentive ADD. I wish we had looked in to it in kindergarten, because he really missed most of what was happening K-2 and had a lot of catch-up once he began meds in 3rd grade. It's easier to diagnose ADD when they are in the 2nd or 3rd grade because they are reading then, and school is getting more academic. But my advice is do it now, don't waste anymore time, especially given your husband's history.  If he does have ADD, you will be amazed how much the meds help.

    You've already taken the perfect first step -- speaking to his teacher. She sees kids year after year, and probably has a great sense of what falls within neurotypical parameters. As you know, a lot of kids -- a lot of boys, especially -- just take longer to mature. 

    But I don't think that you, as a critical and well-informed parent, would fall into a false ADD diagnosis. You can have the kid assessed and even assessed again before settling on a diagnosis. I know a lot of people moan and cry about over-diagnosis and overuse of meds, but everyone in our circle -- the BPN-type parent -- seems to be so aware of this issue. I'm saying this to reassure you. There are a lot of parents like your husband who went through years of feeling like crap, like absolute crap, because they simply couldn't do what came naturally to their classmates, and I applaud you for watching so closely. 

    My advice? Continue what you're doing right now, and give positive reinforcement. Be encouraging and psyched about his progress, wherever he is. That way even if he does eventually end up being diagnosed, it will be much less of a big deal and not layered with regret and pain. I think you're doing great. Just keep watching, and set a deadline of like six months, and promise yourself you won't worry during those 6 months. Then see where's he's at then. 

    If he missed out on TK but qualifies for it, consider having him do K twice. 

    My son (born in August) was the same last year in Kindergarten. This year he is doing so much better. He is more able (and willing) to focus and the teacher has noticed the change and how well he's doing. I think your son probably/hopefully won't be that aware yet of how well he's doing compared with the other children so I'd be inclined to leave it alone and see how he gets on this year unless you see or the teacher raises something dramatically worrying. I think as a parent we can overthink things sometimes and maybe we should just let our kids be - hopefully he'll get there in his own good time. Obviously, I'm not saying you should ignore your instincts, but maybe just sit back and observe for a while before you spring into action. 

    My husband felt as yours did, that everyone just thought he was "bad." Our own son has ADHD, and you can't really "push" for a diagnosis, because he either has it or he doesn't. But I do think you should start the evaluation process. Be warned that your district will likely push back even though they are legally responsible to evaluate (OUSD principal at our neighborhood school said falsely, "Oh, they don't do that testing until 3rd grade when there is a wider discrepancy between what they should know and what they do know." This is NOT true. Your request-better put it in writing-is what gets the ball rolling.) Also know that if you don't agree with the district's evaluation and feel that they might just be going through the motions and hoping you will drop it, you can ask for one from someone you choose and in fact, you may start with that offer and see if they take it. (Can't hurt.) Here are 2 sites that will help immensely: and Good luck!

    If you are concerned about ADHD, I would ask the pediatrician. S/he may be reluctant to make a diagnosis at such a young age, but you can see. At the same time, you can request to schedule a SST at school. They will share tips and strategies.  If the concerns are more about the attentiveness than the academics, probably not much will happen until you have a diagnosis, but it can't hurt to get the ball rolling. Good luck and hang in there. 

    I have a 12 year old son with ADHD. We knew in kindergarten that he had significant focus issues but it did not cause issues in school or with his self-esteem until 3rd or 4th grade when things become more academic.  A formal diagnosis by a child psychiatrist and medication have helped him enormously. 

    I would suggest that you go through your Pediatrician and get recommendations for a child psychiatrist or developmental pediatrician who can make a definitive diagnosis.

    Once you have a medical diagnosis of ADHD or ADD in hand,  request a meeting for an IEP in writing to your principal. The school District is obligated to respond to this written request within 30 days. It will speed the implementation of your IEP once you have this medical diagnosis from a doctor, and you can begin to implement some accommodations in the classroom like:  

    1) longer time to complete tasks  2) time outs to run around outside 3) more frequent snacks 4) a rubber ball to sit on and bounce in class at his desk 5) preferential seating in the front of the class

    You can then wait and decide when to begin medicines but I would wait till 3rd or 4th grade. Once you have the medical diagnosis in hand, things go much easier in the school setting.

    I would not go through the schools psychologist as a first step for a diagnosis. You could waste a lot of time in getting an IEP with that route as school districts can claim that there is no formal medical diagnosis. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


8 year old may have inattentive ADHD

Oct 2011

Hi fellow BPNers. I have an 8 year old 3rd grade daughter. She has a mid-September birthday and started kindergarten when she was four so she has always been the youngest in her class (we attend a school district where many parents hold their children until they are 6 to start kindergarten). Her preschool teachers said she was ready for kindergarten and she was from a social (making friends) and academic perspective. However, from the beginning we had some issues with behavioral situations (wanting hugs from the teacher, not wanting to sit in circle when it was time, etc.). First and second grade, however, she did fine--she is an avid reader and performs at a satisfactory or above satisfactory level on most benchmarks. However in second grade and now in third grade, her teachers commented that my daughter is frequently distracted and often misses important instructions for completing an assignment. In addition, she talks a lot when she is supposed to be working on an assignment which prevents her (and others) from finishing her assignments.

Another potential piece of the puzzle is that there is a strong ADHD predisposition in my family...My grandma, Mom, sister, nephew and niece have ADHD, and another sister has ADH.

I am looking for advice from other parents of other easily distracted children on how to help my daughter focus better. And how to get her to stop with the chit chat during school time. And if your child was diagnosed with ADH, were these signs that your child exhibited prior to being diagnosed? Thank you!! anon

ADHD is frequently diagnosed in 2nd or 3rd grade because of the increased academic demands. You need to get her evaluated, especially given your family history. Talk to your pediatrician. - mom of an ADD kid

I took a long-acting ritalin daily from age 12 to age 19. Other siblings took ritalin from kindergarten until college. There was never a need to increase the dose - ever. I stopped the drug at 19 and was able to integrate my learned behavior (focus, concentration) into my life well enough that I didn't have any problems as an adult. However, probably none of us actually had ADHD. We were diagnosed in the sixties and not a lot was known. Possibly there were just too many kids in our family and not enough parental time. I have mixed feelings because I accomplished a lot due to being on ritalin, but I think any normal person would have better concentration skills on ritalin! Your fears about long term consequences, and the need to increase the dose are unfounded, at least in our family experience. Your son's self esteem will probably be boosted by doing well and being able to behave and concentrate better. anon

My son started Ritalin when he was 8 too. He is 10 now. I posted about ouexperience to the other question in this newsletter about the inattentive 8-year-old.Your son is taking a really low dose, and it sounds like it's working for him, so that is great! The kids do not ''adapt'' to the ADD medication; it's not like heroin where they need more and more and more. It's more like your 2 cups of coffee in the morning. You don't add additional cups over the years until you're drinking 30 cups a day because the two cups works for you! Once you find the right does, they stay on that dose. We had a hard time figuring out dosages. We started out like you with a low dose and then went from there. For us, the problem wasn't so much the number of mg's as it was the ''delivery method.'' It really took almost a year of trying different brands of Ritalin before we found one that worked. There is the time-release kind, which lasts for the whole school day, and then there is the regular kind that your son is probably taking, which is out of their system by about lunch time. With the regular, he had no focus in the afternoons,which was ok in 2nd grade, but it started to be a problem in 3rd grade. Homework was impossible too. The time-release OTOH would last for the entire school day and he'd have no problem with homework, but then it seemed to hang around in his system for hours after dinnertime, and he wasn't getting to bed until 10:30 or 11. We tried using the regular kind and having the school give him a 2nd dose at lunchtime, but again we found it was interfering with his sleep. So we finally went to a child psychiatrist at Kaiser who figured out that our son has a very slow metabolism and this was the problem with the time-release meds. It was hanging around in his stomach and continuing to dribble out over a much longer time period. He prescribed a different time-release that delivered more in the morning and less in the afternoon. It worked great. In our case, we changed him to a new school that had more running around time and less stress, and in the middle of 4th grade he stopped taking meds and it was fine. Now in 5th grade we are all taking about trying them out again because academic demands are picking up, but we'll see. His older brother's focus got better by 7th grade, so there is hope! a mom

I have experience with both my son and having been inattentive and hyperactive myself as a kid myself. When I was a kid I got worse when I was around large numbers of children or around other hyped up kids. It took me quite a while to unwind afterwards. But I did unwind if I was around someone calm (like my uncle or my dad). Having quiet time to play by myself helped too. I also realize that another aspect was being upset or angry about something someone was doing - which made me aggressive. Mostly it just took me longer to make the transition active to quiet. Also I needed more running around and playing time than some kids. The more I played outdoors, the easier it was to appreciate quiet time after I burned off the excess energy. It took me a few years, but I eventually got it right. I also strongly suspect that food was involved, because what I ate made a difference. I completely outgrew my issues and went on to become a successful manager and college instructor. When my son came along, I saw that he was like me in some ways, so we decided to home educate (supplemented with lots of supervised social activities, sports, choir, and so on). No ADHD issues have occurred. I think a calm and patient authority being present is a big factor like in the ''Santa parenting book'' (which is currently free online)at a parenting site Happy parenting! grown up ADHD kid

I think that my son might have ADD

Aug 2010

My husband and I have been in marriage counseling for a year now. We're doing really well, but last week our therapist suggested that my husband might have ADD. We did a lot of research and think that he does have ADD. Now, he's waiting for an appointment with the doctor and possibly psychiatrist. Well, I've also said for a long time that our oldest son is a mini version of his father. My husband agrees and we are also taking a close look the possibility that out son could also have ADD (neither seems to fall into ADHD catagory). My questions are to anyone who has been through this process. To medicate or not to medicate? How do you discipline a child with ADD? Any proven methods to help them remember things? How do I cope with this condition? I want to support them both, but it's so hard to not get frustrated when I see them constantly forget or put things off. Are there any good support groups in the Dublin/Pleasanton/Livermore area? Any advice on good reading material for both coping (them) and handling it better (me) is appreciated. Thanks! Trying To Find Help

My 10-year-old has ADD, inattentive type. He has been helped a great deal by taking Concerta and he can now actually interact with the teacher and students in the classroom, participate in discussions at the family dinner table, and play on a sports team. He could not do any of these things before, because of all the distractions going on inside his head all the time. You should have your son evaluated by either a developmental pediatrician or a neuropsych to see if he does in fact have ADD. If so, you can discuss the options with your doctor. There is a lot of info about ADD on the internet - in particular try the CHADD website.

Hi, I'm a coach who works with non-linear thinkers like people with ADD and many artists. A great resource is It stands for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

I can only answer part of your question and stay within the maximum character limit... sorry... I have a son with ADD or ADHD depending on who is doing the talking. I'm sure this will buck most of the advice given here, but medicating him has been the best thing we've ever done for him. It is not a decision we made lightly. In fact when he was first diagnosed in 2nd grade and we refused medication outright. We had a hard time accepting the diagnosis; he seemed just like all the other little boys we knew. However, by the time we got to 4th grade it was obvious that he had more difficulty concentrating and sitting still than his peers. Between the ADD and his learning disabilities school was a struggle for him and constantly being in trouble was wrecking his self-esteem. Once it became apparent that he was having trouble in social settings as well as academic ones we decided to give the medicine a try. What a difference. His reading got better, his writing got better, he was able to concentrate and remember things. His self-esteem improved as he saw his academic struggles diminish. Don't get me wrong... he still has learning disabilities and memory problems... but things are much better than they were. Overall I'd say it was truly a wonderful thing, and I wish I'd done it sooner. Give it a try and then worry about techniques, you never know what results you are going to get. converted

See my response to a question above about ADHD. Ed Hallowell and his wife have a new book out about being married to a person with ADHD. anon

Active 2nd Grader or ADHD?

Aug 2010

My child will be entering second grade this fall and I'm beginning to wonder if she's just active, or if she has ADHD. She's always been on the very active end of the spectrum - jumping up and down when she sees friends or spinning when she hears music she likes, dancing, moving constantly, running. She's never been a kid who can sit and do a puzzle, or color quietly. She's constantly exploring drawers (childproofing was a must), opening bags, dancing, filling containers with dirt and beans and pouring them into smaller containers, stuff like that. Her temperament is kind, and she makes friends easily. We've worked hard not to restrain her natural curiosity, because it's messy (but natural) and there's no malice in it. But she's clumsy, fidgety, and simply can't sit still for long. In restaurants, she's literally rolling on the seat, her arms are like tentacles, she's kicking, and despite our attempts to demand she sit still, she can't. Her last year's teacher did not see any indication of ADHD but did indicate that she ''spaces out'' sometimes. My partner's relative said we should give her time outs for not sitting still in restaurants -- should we? Or can she help it? Is all this movement a result of bad parenting? Where's the line between temperament and disorder? Help! She's Digging in the Backyard

My soon-to-be-fourth grade son has a similar temperament. He mostly seems unaware of what his body, and his fingers, are doing -- and they are generally doing quite a lot; he's especially bad with picking stuff up and handling it after specifically being asked not to. For a year or more around 1st grade he seemed to be walking into people on the sidewalk on purpose -- I must have said ''Be careful, don't bump into people...'' a thousand times. He's also clumsy, though that has improved considerably over the past year. He's quite tall, and I often describe him as ''a half-grown golden retriever puppy, not knowing quite what to do with all his arms and legs.'' He's not quite as bad in restaurants (but full disclosure -- we give him iPhone games to help him wait!). He can't yet entirely control his sheer physical energy, so we don't punish him for it. And he does not have ADHD. His second grade teacher described him thus: ''He hears every word I say. He may be hanging upside down off his chair when I say it, but he hears me.'' And I think that's the difference. Kids fidget (some more than others). The question is whether or not they can attend when asked to.

I'm certainly no developmental psychologist, so if you are concerned, you should have your child evaluated. But do know that there are other kids out there with very active temperaments. It's normal, and not necessarily a problem. They may have trouble because the school wants them to sit still, but it doesn't necessarily indicate a need for punishment, therapy or medication.

One thing I've definitely found (just FYI) that has helped with body awareness is that he has taken regular martial arts training for a couple of years now. He's much more able to control fidgeting, and not bump into stuff, than before he started. the puppy's mom

Your daughter sounds extremely active, but I wouldn't jump to a conclusion about ADHD unless her teacher begins to express concerns and she isn't learning what she should be in school. Activity level is a temperament trait that is not necessarily a problem, except that our society expects children to sit still. I wouldn't create problems for yourself by expecting her to sit still unless it is really necessary for the situation (a haircut, for example). As she grows older she will have an easier time sitting still but will probably always need more physical activity than other people. You might try helping her to get more intense exercise (gymnastics, sports, etc.) in order to get some of her energy out and make your life a little easier. I am offering a support group for parents of spirited children, so contact me if you are interested in that. Meri

Hi. You will probably get lots of letters with similar advice. I would definitely take your daughter to an occupational therapist with experience in sensory disorders. Your daughter sounds very similar to mine (who is younger), and also to me as a child. Our daughter is also extremely active and ''clumsy''. She was diagnosed with a mild sensory processing disorder in the areas of vestibular and proprioceptive processing. How this plays out with her is that she craves extra input in these areas and is challenged by activities such as sitting still in a chair for a long time. Of course I don't know your child but from the things your wrote I think it would be really worth your while to get an evaluation. We ended up getting the evaluation and then sharing all the suggestions with our daughter's school, which really helped both my daughter and the teachers. I know the restaurant thing is annoying, but it probably really is hard for her. I feel lucky we were able to kind of figure out this problem early because I work in special education. Feel free to contact me. jamie

I don't really know much about adhd, but I know my experiences. You're describing me when I was a kid. It took me until about 3rd/4th grade to finally be able to reel in my energy and sit still for any real length of time. In fact, it took a great 3rd grade teacher to figure out to give me books to read during class because otherwise I was disruptive due to my energy (even though my grades were perfect). This taught me how to always have books with me so I could ''sit still'' in certain situations. I always did great in school, but it was boring and easy. I'm in my 30s and I'm still hyper by most people's definition, however I can control myself when the situation requires it (hours of boring meetings). My hyperness only appears that way to others when it's expressed in a physical way because I can just as easily sit and do 3 hours (or many more) straight of work (software engineer) or read for just as long or longer. I need to be doing something, either physical or mental or I go nuts. I think for small kids it's harder to have something that can mentally stimulate them for long periods (or realize they want/need it), so it looks like hyperness instead of physical action (which they can provide for themselves). I think it's good to point out to her that other people are sitting still in a restaurant so she can too, but I would encourage you not to make it a battle because this might be her nature and you don't really want her to learn how to turn her energy off/tune out. bad parenting? no way. Bad parenting would be you constantly trying to get her to sit still. There is a very fine line between temperament and disorder - it's all perspective. My parents think I should be ''reigning'' in our child too, but I don't agree most of the time. I'm giving her until late elementary and then I'll start explaining that society will take her more seriously if she's not bouncing when she's talking to somebody. Until then, who cares? --hyper and happy

The truth, in my opinion, is that the line between temperament and disorder is very very very gray...

Whether or not she has ADHD, her activity level is not a product of bad parenting, it is just how she is and it will likely be a valuable strength later in life after this awkward stage is over. Its very easy for others to judge when they have not truly experienced it, but its not right for them to do so. I think it is fine to give children with ADHD (or non-ADHD kids) timeouts, in fact I strongly suggest it as it gives them a break from all the stimulus. The various books on ADHD may be helpful on this subject and just about every bookstore has a ton of them. I found Dr. Amen to be helpful - ( What is harmful is to call a child with ADHD ''lazy'', ''spazy'', or try to force them to focus when they are already tired or are not interested in the subject. If you do determine she has ADHD, then I would learn about all the accomplished famous people who have had ADHD (and there is many) and ADHD as well as other ''learning differences'' are just a different way of thinking, not a ''disorder''.

If your child seems to be suffering, such as doing poorly in school or feeling bad about themselves, then maybe getting tested for a learning disability by a qualified professional is a good idea. I am sure your school can provide recommendations. Such testing is not cheap and insurance rarely covers it (although I think Kaiser might), but such academic testing will give you a much more thorough and professional opinion on how your child learns best, and if she has an LD, how best to approach it. I am personally very weary of medications for ADHD, so I suggest being cautious if ADHD is the diagnosis, but you can read about the pro and cons of medication if and when a diagnosis of ADHD is confirmed.

Good luck, I am sure your a great mom. Anon

Worried that grandchildren may have ADD

March 2010

Recently we started suspecting that my grand daughter (and maybe my grand son too) has ADD. The problem is: their father died recently from mental illness and they know he had ADD and depression (among other things). The subject of perhaps them having ADD is really scary for them. Any suggestions about how to approach this? They are both already in therapy for grief counseling. Feel free to email me directly.

I am an adult with ADD. I was diagnosed as an adult when applying to law school. It was a scary thing to learn since I had also heard so many negative things about having ADD, as most of us have. I think when exploring the possibility of having ADD, it is important to keep in mind that ADD does not mean mental illness or one is unintelligent, its just a different way of the brain operating. In some circumstances, thinking in a different way can be a big advantage. Many successful people are reported to have ADHD or learning disabilities including Charles Schwab, Erin Brockovich, Gavin Newsom, Nelson Rockefeller, James Carville, Anderson Cooper, Michael Phelps, Tony Bennett, etc. (see There are challenges associated with having a learning disability such as ADHD, but with a supportive family such challenges can certainly be overcome and one can lead a very normal, if not extraordinary life. anon

ADD or just 7-year-old phase?

Jan 2008

My 7-year old son has always been ahead on the learning curve, was an early reader, has great fine motor skills, and good focus. Recently, however, he has been having trouble comprehending instructions at school and at home, and can't seem to focus on any school related tasks (he does fine when playing). He is struggling in school and with homework, and seems to be forgetting even the simple things he has known for years. His teacher is concerned that he has ADD. However, he can focus intensely for long periods when doing legos, drawing, or doing other non-academic activities. I get frustrated helping him, because it seems like no matter what I say to help him he doesn\xc2\x92t grasp it (and being frustrated with him clearly doesn't help him). Should I be concerned or is this just a 7 year old phase? confused and concerned

I am a first grade teacher and see that many boys have ADD-like symptoms in this age group which disappear later. This observation comes from many years of experience. In my first years of teaching I would overreact to things because I had not seen enough children over long periods of time to know any better. I would refer kids to testing and nothing would come of it but that they were in a phase, just as you suspected. How many years has your son's teacher been teaching? Has she administered any testing for him? Has he been referred to any specialists? If she is making off-the-cuff remarks to you during conferences or in passing w/o back up data, this is a BIG no no. You never should say anything like this to parents if you have not gone through the necessary steps schools have in place for correctly diagnosing learning disorders like ADD first, then the parents should be involved in every step of the process for testing , creating individual education plans (iep) etc. If you are concerned, you can go get him tested somewhere on your own. Don't be too concerned....It is probably a phase first grade teacher

I hate to ask this, but have you ruled out boredom at school. If he's far advanced, I imagine he can think circles around most of the kids and probably is his teacher too. School is often not a good fit for the genius and genius's often fare as badly as learning disabled in school. They just get too bored. My husband's mother told him to watch his teacher and pretend that he was listening. He said that helped. I don't know if there are alternative programs for your son, or different school possiblities? Good luck

ADD or is school just really boring? It's numbing to be told what to do and when to do it for 6 hours a day, constantly supervised, constantly corrected. Perhaps it's deadening his spark. You did say that his attention is just fine when he's interested in the task at hand. I'd stick with that observation and ask the school to change, not him. The only other question I'd ask is, ''Is he depressed about something?'' Best of luck, Elisa

Is your son getting enough sleep? Maybe his sleep needs have changed and he needs more. Our very bright son went through a similar phase, we were puzzled but realized suddenly one day his sleep had been getting disrupted on a regular basis. We made his sleep a priority - in second grade he would go to bed at 7:30 p.m. and sleep til 7 a.m. - and things turned around literally in a couple of days. My boy needs his sleep

6-year-old shows signs of ADD - how to help him?

Sept 2007

I have a wonderful little boy who just turned 6. Since he was in preschool teachers have been quick to mention they think he has ADD. I've been reluctant to jump to this conclusion because of his age. Boys tend to mature slower and be impulsive. I spent some time volunteering in his Kindgergarten class and quickly noticed that my son was not as ''engaged'' during reading time when the teacher was talking or singing, had a hard time staying focused on his work, and was doing very poorly at socializing. I had some talks with his pediatrician over the symptoms and even though they do not generally diagnose them until they are 8 he is showing signs of ADHD. Here is where I am stuck. He is 6. He is a boy. He is above grade level in math and reading. So, there is not a learning disability, but he is really struggling with his actions (he tends to have poor impulse control), his transitions in the class are very difficult for him, he keeps telling me that ''he was in class and his mind made him think of (insert 50 random things here)'' and that he struggles with concentrating. I was amazed that he was able to communicate that with me. Although, it means that it was on his mind too. I'm careful not to mention things in front of him. I don't like labels, and I don't want him to label himself either. I want to know what I can do to help him, but not overhelp him. I'm not sure if he needs a 504 plan. I'm afraid of him getting labeled and having that carry over and the teachers discriminating against him because of it. Or, him being singled out in some way and not feeling like part of the class. I'm really confused because, having not been through this before I have no idea what to expect, what works, or what else to try. This is where I plead for help. Any advice will be consumed and devoured. I want to be my child's advocate. I love him dearly and want him to succeed in life. It just takes one step at a time. eastbaymom

Hi there, I almost feel like this post is a flash forward for me! My boy sounds very similar to yours in terms of poor impulse control. Tack on trouble with transitions and its him to a tee. Anyway, mine is still in preschool, with another year to go before K, but we already see that his social/behavioral maturity level is a little delayed - not ADD or ADHD, just not what teachers want in school. Academically he's above average.

Anyway, so we took him to see a developmental pediatrician whose advice to us was to hold him back from Kindergarten or have him do it twice, so that he could catch up developmentally to where he is intellectually before he hits 1st grade. We don't want to hold him back or have him repeat K twice, so we're exploring a middle ground - montessori. Montessori schools don't have grade levels per se, and the curriculum is child centered. This means that the teacher will assess my child and provide him with curriula that challenges and interests him. It also means that if he has to do an extra year of school before Kindergarten, it won't be weird for him. He won't be held back while the rest of his friends go off to the next grade.

I wish you well and good job for trying to figure out alternatives to having your child diagnosed with a learning disability - especially since it's possible that he just needs a little more time to catch up socially. anon

So many of us have been right where you are and can relate. I will get right to some quick advice. (I have a 12 year old ADHD boy and a 10 year old year with ADD).

By the age of six, you can certainly have him tested. This is really the first and most important step. A professional can sort through the difference between ADHD and just a ''boy.'' In our case, it was very clear cut and almost off the charts. We retested at age 9 with a different person and same results. In our case, medication was and is essential for daily functioning. There is so much to read and so many options. Medication isn't the only option, but it is often a part of an overall solution. My son really didn't know a label until quite recently.

However, we have worked with his teachers very successfully since 1st grade and they have known of the diagnosis. Overall, better for them to know and work with it than not (although I struggle with the same concern of labeling).

If it turns out that he does have it, there is lots of help out there for both of you. They say one out of nine kids may have this. Maybe environmental? In our case, both the dad and grandmother clearly have it, so genetics is at play.

My main advice, get into the subject. Find out what he really has and then you can create your game plan. Good luck! Anonymous

My daughter has almost the exact same symptoms, is a high scorer in math and reading, etc. She is now 9. We've been dealing with all of this since age 3. I am reluctant to put her on medication but her distratability and inability to sit still is affecting her school work. This is what I did. I spoke to our naturopath and we decided to do neurotransmitter testing on my daughter through NeuroScience. It was just a urine test. It took 3 weeks to process and we found out that she has some fairly serious imbalances. She's on 3 different supplements and the difference is amazing. It's not fixed yet, but we are closer. She can now sit down and pay attention for much longer periods of time. Her self esteem is coming up a lot as well. The other thing I did was I found her an accelerated program at school. The whole school is an accelerated program (I changed her schools). They move much faster than a traditional school and she is doing SO well. She's never bored in school (do you hear that?) and she likes going to school. Those two changes have made all the difference in the world! Paula

I would start with an assessment. Once you have some more specific information about what is (or isn't) going on with your child, you can figure out what the best course is.

I've been through this with both of my kids -- it's expensive, but well worth it. My son was also 6 when issues arose, we had him evaluated, it was ADHD plus other things. My daughter was also evaluated a couple of years later -- no syndromes, but we got great input from the psychologist on how to parent this particular child.

I would recommend Dr. Carina Grandison (sp?) at Children's Hospital (she evaluated our daughter). anon

Your son and your concerns sound a lot like mine. My son had behaviorial and social difficulty at the same age. I struggled to figure out what to do. And, I was concerned about having my son pulled out of class and labeled.

After numerous discussions with our pediatrician, we took our son to a developmental pediatrician for evaluation. Honestly, this wasn't terribly helpful and cost a lot. We learned our son has some of the qualities of ADHD and Aspergers kids, but did not receive a firm diagnosis - he's borderline. The pediatrician confirmed our concerns and observations about our son, but didn't add much to our understanding of his behavior or approaches to handling it. Although, she did make us aware that impulsivity is an element of ADHD and can contribute to social difficulties.

We ended up having our son assessed by our public school speech therapist (for language pragmatics/social skills) and occupational therapist. Some of the assessment was observation or in-class and some out of class. The speech therapist worked to minimize the loss of class time. The kids in his class don't seem to view visits with the speech therapist in a negative light. The results of the assessment and IEP were not surprising, but thorough and provided measurable goals. My child was recommended for the gifted and talented program and other services to address his social difficulties. We weren't pressured to accept any services. I am finding that the assessment and IEP are a good place for us to start conversations with my son's teachers. They lend legitimacy to the idea that my child needs support socially and behaviorally. I spoke with a number of teachers about the possibility of stigmatizing my son by putting him into the school evaluation system. They all felt that he would not be harmed or stigmatized by the process and so far, that has been our experience. Overall, I'm happy with the public school process and found our speech therapist to be a good advocate for our child.

We also are planning to have our son attend a private social skills group this year. They do their own assessment of your child. Although we haven't started the weekly classes, I have been thinking that I wish we would have started with this approach. They would have told us if he needs more, less, or different help. And, we would have started working to build social and behavioral skills immediately instead of doing so much evaluation. Good luck. Anonymous

The results of a large study was just described recently in the New York Times. Kids who ingest artificial colors and preservatives in foods demonstrated hyperactive activity like ADHD afterwards. Try eliminating processed foods like this, especially in his lunch. He sounds like a bright boy. It may help control his moods and behavior. The article is here: Good luck!

I'm responding as both a psychotherapist and an adult with ADD. While it is totally understandable that you don't want him labeled, without help he will have unneeded difficulties. It's important that your son receive the adjustments that will help with his attention difficulties. A good book to start with is ''Delivered from Distraction.'' I also recommend MarRem Remington, a psychotherapist in Oakland who has a background in special ed and specializes in assessments and consultations as needed with schools. Parents are fully involving in the process and she has many helpful suggestions for home and school. Her # is 510-835-4357. Suggestions

Has anyone heard of inattentive ADD disorder?

Jan 2007

I was in my salon the other day and spoke with someone who has a daughter with the same type of problems as my daughter. Some were your typical, but some hit right on the mark. She said her daughter was tested and was found to have inattentive ADD disorder. She was giving meds and went from a majority of D's on her report card to A'S. Any input or Recommended physicians who specialize in this hard to detect type of ADD. Ray

Clearwater Counseling and Assessment Services, in Oakland, offers comprehensive psychological ADD evaluations, which include a school observation, for quite reasonable fees. Attention Deficit Disorder is not a medical condition, and it is best assessed by a psychologist rather than a medical doctor, although of course an MD needs to prescribe any recommended medications. Often, symptoms of ADD can be treated behaviorally, with medication added only if there isn't satisfactory progress using behavioral interventions alone. Visit Clearwater's website: or call Dr. Sharon Witkin at 596-8137 for more information. Sally

ADD is a medical disorder that has a higher genetic basis than any of the other psychiatric disorders (including schizophrenia) and is primarily treated with medications. I am a psychiatrist who treats UC Berkeley students with attention deficit disorder. ADD can be with hyperactivity and/or impulsivity but these are not necessary for the diagnosis. The inability to focus must begin before age 7 and interfere with two areas of functioning such as school, home life and social skills. For children the treatment of choice is medications and this is provided by pediatricians and child psychiatrists. Educating the family and teachers how to work with the child and tutoring as needed to keep the child up to grade level are also important. For adolescents and adults treatment choices include medications and cognitive behavior therapy. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder are sometimes co-morbid with ADD so the treatment of people with ADD is usually complex. anon

I'm a Berkeley psychotherapist working mainly with teens who have learning disorders of one kind or another. Many of my clients have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD comes in two varieties. There is ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type, and there is ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type. Most specialists now consider the Inattentive Type of ADHD to be a different disorder altogether, not just a sub-type. ADHDI (as it's often called) is hard to diagnose, because people with ADHDI don't show outward signs of distractibility; that is, they don't jump up and down, wiggle, tap pencils, interrupt people, talk ceaselessly, and so forth. They may appear to be quite calm, composed, and focused; but inside, their minds may be racing aimlessly from one thought to another. They are highly distractible: so much so, that they often don't seem to hear what is said to them or to be aware of what's happening around them. They find it hard to get started on projects or complete them. They do things quite slowly; overall they are characterized by what some experts call ''sluggish cognitive tempo.'' In moments of stress they may slow down rather than speed up; occasionally people with ADHDI may even fall asleep during important final exams. Obviously this kind of ADHD can produce severe academic problems, though it isn't as likely to produce disciplinary problems as the other type. I hope you'll find this very basic information helpful. Please let me know if you have questions. Caroline

I expected to see tons of answers to this question, so I held off, but so far the only replies have come from therapists; nothing from parents! Yes, I have indeed heard of inattentive ADHD -- we've been living with it for a long time... ADHD comes in 3 flavors: primarily hyperactive-impulsive, primarily inattentive, and combined. Before you settle down with any particular therapist or doctor with any particular approach, you may just want to get some basic information. There are so many good websites, but here are a few that I have found helpful: CHADD.ORG - extensive information about all aspects of ADHD; some very good basic information sheets. MEDLINEPLUS.GOV - National Institutes of Health (I think...); very authoritative and reputabile; just search on ADHD SCHWABLEARNING.ORG - lots of very informative articles on ADHD, as well as on other learning difficulties. I hope this helps. anonymous