Do you suspect your child has ADD/ADHD or was misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD?
I hope this guest article will give you the help and the information you need to have your child properly diagnosed.
My son was misdiagnosed with ADHD and was taking medication for condition he didn’t have for 5 years. As a mother I still feel guilty about it…..especially since I was questioning his diagnoses, but took his doctor’s word for it……
This article was written by Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and Learning Disabilities Specialist.
Teachers and parents often jump to the wrong conclusion when a child is inattentive. They often think the child has ADD/ADHD. Parents may hear from the school that their child is continually inattentive in the classroom. Schools may actually say that they suspect your child has ADD/ADHD.
Inattention in the classroom or at home may be due to ADD/ADHD, but it may also be due to an auditory processing difficulty or a visual processing difficulty. There are many similarities between ADD/ADHD, auditory processing difficulties and visual processing difficulties. There are a variety of remedies for each of these difficulties.
Comparing the behaviors and symptoms of ADD/ADHD, auditory processing difficulties and visual processing difficulties will help you identify which area(s) best describes your child’s learning challenges. Once you have a better idea of what causes you child’s inattention, you will be more able to help them.
Behaviors/Symptoms of ADD/ADHD (Inattentive Type) include:
1. Has trouble with giving close attention to details or frequently makes careless mistakes.
2. Has trouble staying with a task or a ‘play’ activity
3. Doesn’t seem to be listening when spoken to directly.
4. Has a habit of not following instructions (written or auditory) and has poor ‘follow-through’ with both schoolwork and chores.
5. Has difficulty organizing homework, projects, desk, bedroom, as well as activities.
6. Appears unmotivated, avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long periods of time such as chores, schoolwork or homework.
7. Due to disorganization, often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
8. Is often easily distracted both at home and at school (This distraction is not specific to just at school).
9. Frequently forgetful in daily activities.
Behaviors/Symptoms of Auditory Processing Difficulties include:
1. Has trouble paying attention to and remembering information presented orally (Audio tapes or stories read aloud, lectures)
2. Has problems carrying out multi-step directions (In school: put your math book away, get your history book out and turn to page 35; at home: when you ask your child to do a list of chores – brush your teeth, make your bed, get your backpack ready for school).
3. Has poor listening skills.
4. Needs more time to process information. (Takes to take a long time to respond to your questions.)
5. Has low academic performance.
6. Has behavior problems.
7. Has language difficulty (They confuse syllable sequences and have problems developing vocabulary and understanding language).
8. Has difficulty with reading, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary.
Behaviors/Symptoms of Visual Processing Difficulties include:
1.Makes careless mistakes.
2.Looks away from visual targets, seems to be daydreaming.
3.Has sloppy handwriting.
4.Avoids reading, has reading fatigue, doesn’t read pleasure books without being prodded to do so.
5.Skips lines or words while reading.
6.Has poor eye contact, doesn’t seem to be paying attention because they are not giving you eye contact.
7.Has visual distractibility / ‘Inattention’.
8.Missed social cues, frequently interrupts conversations.
9.Forgets what’s been shown or has read.
10.’Spacey’, has a tendency to become lost or not know what’s going on.
11.Is often forgetful in daily activities both at school and at home.
12.Has repeated spelling errors, different spellings for the same word.
What Should a Parent Do?
With the similarities of ADD/ADHD, auditory processing, and visual processing behaviors and symptoms you can see why no one should jump to any one diagnosis. What needs to be done instead is to look at the whole picture. Thankfully, there are materials available to help a parent know what type of problem they are actually dealing with.
You want to look for an assessment tool that you can use to get an indication of what the actual problem is before you jump to the conclusion that your child has ADD/ADHD. Once you’ve done your homework as a parent, you will have a clearer picture of whether your child has an auditory or visual processing problem that may be considered a learning disability [depending on the severity of the problems] or ADD/ADHD.
Your homework is to go through a variety of learning disability checklists that identify auditory and visual processing problems. By going through them, you will know whether to proceed with more formal testing and who you need to do the formal testing: an audiologist, a developmental optometrist, school psychologist, or a physician, etc.
What Happens Often In the Classroom
When your child has either an auditory processing or a visual processing problem, what happens is that those processing systems aren’t working as efficiently as they should be. Because of this inefficiency the processing systems are working harder than they should and they can get overloaded. When this happens, the system temporarily shuts down. In the classroom this can look like the student is not paying attention.
Unfortunately, these children are often called out by their teachers for not paying attention. That happened with my son over and over. Everyone in the class would hear his name called out and they knew he wasn’t paying attention. My son didn’t understand that his visual processing system had shut down and that it really only needed about a 30 second break to regroup and it would be good to go again.
Children don’t realize what is happening. They may be staring out the window, playing in their desk, just drifting off. They don’t automatically bring themselves back to the activity at hand. They are children. They don’t even know when their system has shut down. They are usually unaware that they aren’t paying attention any longer.
What Else Can Be Easily Done Within the Classroom?
1. Gently bring them back to the activity. This can be done by tapping them on the shoulder or tapping their desk. Both of these are gentle ways of bringing them back to attention without drawing attention to the whole class that they weren’t paying attention just then.
2. Simply break up the routine. This can be accomplished, every 20 minutes or so by having the whole class stand up, touch their toes, and sit back down or do any other type of stretching or walk around their desk. The change from sitting to movement will improve the whole classroom’s attention and give a break to everyone’s visual and auditory processing systems.
To help you identify if your child has ADD/ADHD, auditory processing or visual processing difficulties or a combination of these problems:
1. You need to do your homework, be proactive, use the tools that are available to help you understand what is actually causing your child’s problems at school. There are pre-screening tools available that parents and/or teachers can easily use to determine if their child is experiencing auditory processing or visual processing problems.
2. Schools can only suggest that you look into the possibility that your child may have ADD/ADHD; to get an accurate diagnosis you typically need to see a physician, a psychiatrist, a psychologist (who then needs to refer the child to a physician if medication is suggested), or a neurologist.
3. If after going through a LD pre-screening tool, you suspect your child may have visual and/or auditory processing problems, you can request that more ‘formal’ testing be done by the school system.
4. After further investigation, if your child actually has ADD/ADHD, an auditory processing difficulty, or a visual processing difficulty or a combination of them, and it is impacting their education, they should be able to qualify for accommodations within the classroom via a 504 Plan if they don’t qualify for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Sometimes auditory processing problems are actually CAPD, Central Auditory Processing Disorder.