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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is defined in the Robert Woods Johnson pediatrics glossary as:

A syndrome (a group of symptoms or signs) that is usually characterized by serious and persistent difficulties, resulting in inattentiveness or distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

There is currently no diagnostic laboratory test for ADHD.  Generally, for a diagnosis of ADHD, the behaviors must appear before an individual reaches age seven, continue for at least six months, be more frequent than in other children of the same age, and cause impairment in at least two areas of life (school, home, work, or social function).  Steps taken toward a diagnosis of ADHD may involve:

  • Medical examination
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Clinical interview
  • Psychological testing

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) provides diagnostic criteria for ADHD and a list of symptoms which should be present for a confirmed diagnosis.  Recent surveys have confirmed earlier studies that show the strong impact of ADHD on the lives of both children and adults.

Why should we as a society care about AD/HD?  Studies have shown that the social, personal and financial impacts of untreated ADHD can be significant.  For example, when compared with their non-ADHD peers, adults with ADHD may be:

  • Three times more likely to be currently unemployed
  • Two times more likely to have problems keeping friends
  • Forty-seven percent more likely to have trouble saving money to pay bills
  • Four times more likely to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease

Treatment options have tended to focus on medication and behavior modification.  One of the options in the latter category that shows promise, especially for kids and teens with ADHD, is coaching.  Coaches can:

  • Assess the environment, identify needs, set goals, and offer suggestions and guidance.
  • Set structure, provide support, and help implement strategies for skill building.
  • Team up with other professionals (physicians, psychiatrists, counselors, and teachers) to ensure that services are coordinated at home and at school.
  • Teach and foster appropriate social skills, self-discipline, self-reliance, and self-advocacy.
  • Schedule regular phone or e-mail “check-ins” to monitor progress and goals.
  • Build self-esteem and confidence.

Michael PhelpsADHD can be effectively managed.  Many highly successful individuals with ADHD have overcome its potential limitations through techniques like coaching.  They have learned to manage the condition and even leverage it in their careers – e.g. Michael Phelps.  Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD at age 9.  He won a world record eight Olympic Gold medals this summer.

But ADHD is best managed by early diagnosis and treatment.  Otherwise, as research has shown, it becomes a problem for all of society.