What is ADHD?

from The Diary of a First Grade Teacher

What is ADHD? It's a term you’ve probably heard before ... In the past, it was used freely and applied to anyone who had trouble focusing on ANY one thing at a time.

But that’s not a fair and reliable method to determine if someone really has ADHD. To know for sure requires a clinical diagnosis.

ADHD stands for "attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.” Some people use it interchangeably with the term, ADD, but they shouldn’t confuse the two.

ADD stands for “attention deficit disorder” and refers to people who have attention deficit, but there’s no hyperactivity involved with it.

Learning more about what ADHD is and isn’t can help you determine if your child needs testing.

In the Classroom ...

Teachers are often asked, "What is ADHD?" Parents want to know not only what it is, but specifically how can it affect a child in the classroom.

A child with undiagnosed ADHD will likely have difficulty of some kind or other. And while teachers can and will tell you about your child’s school behavior, we do not make clinical diagnoses ...

But when a teacher sees a student constantly struggling - having problems concentrating and paying attention - we report it to you.

As teachers and parents we know that over the course of any typical day any child may experience restlessness and inattentiveness, especially if the child is tired, sleepy, or sick.

So, how can you tell the difference between the two?

The Difference

To see what sets people with ADHD apart, health professionals look at the area of the brain responsible for clarity, mental focus, and activity. What they’ve discovered may be surprising to you …

The brains of people with ADHD are wired differently.

This means that even when the child tries to “settle down,” his mind just doesn’t want to comply. You can tell him to relax, focus, and pay attention all day long, but he’s incapable of making his mind and body cooperate.

So the question is - as a parent or guardian - how do you know if your child is suffering from a normal bout of fidgeting or really has ADHD?

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

There are three main categories of ADHD: hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. Each has similar symptoms, but they can be distinguished enough to determine if your child has one, two, or all three of the components.

Signs of Hyperactivity

  • difficulty sitting still, frequent fidgeting and squirming uncontrollably
  • the inability to stay seated, even when they’re instructed to stay still
  • inappropriate behavior like climbing or playing at inappropriate times
  • problems playing quietly when requested
  • incessant talking, even when instructed to be quiet

Signs of Inattention

  • trouble staying on task - for even short periods of time
  • lack of attention when you are speaking to them
  • issues with staying organized at school, work, and home
  • forgetfulness regarding assignments, requests, chores, homework, etc.
  • being easily distracted when performing a task

Signs of Impulsivity

  • difficulty waiting in line
  • blurting out of answers in class or in meetings - even when not called on
  • constant interruption of conversations

If your child has exhibited any of these signs day in and day out – at school and at home - the next step is to seek more information.

You can ask the counselor or the social worker at your child’s school if they can help you. Chances are good they can OR they will have resources available to refer you to someone for testing.

A professional assessment can give you more information into the condition and answer any questions you may have. No one wants to see a child hurting in any way, including struggling to learn.


Read about the Causes of ADHD and also How is ADHD diagnosed?

Read about ADHD Myths and Treatment for ADHD

For ADHD homework tips, see ADHD Strategies

See ADHD Diet Guidelines for a shocking revelation!

Return from What is ADHD to What about This?

Return from What is ADHD to Funny-First-Grade-People Home.

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