Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are both behavioral illnesses that are affecting a growing number of children and teenagers.
Currently, more boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD. A number of adults are also being diagnosed with adult-onset ADHD. Furthermore, an estimated one-third of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to have symptoms until adulthood (Weyandt et al. 2003). Through greater exposure in the media and from health activists, there is less social stigma associated with the illness. As a result, more families are seeking treatment for their children.
This paper looks at the various symptoms associated with ADD and ADHD. The next part then evaluates how these symptoms and effects of ADD and ADHD affect a child's learning ability. This section of the paper looks at how ADHD affects the development of a child's motor development skills. The next part then sees whether ADHD has any detrimental effects on the development of a child's speech and communication patterns. This section then evaluates how ADHD affects the development of more advanced learning skills, such as reading comprehension and mathematical ability. Finally, this section examines whether ADHD has any effect on a person's ability to learn the social skills necessary to develop strong interpersonal relationships.
In the final part, this paper looks at several programs and methods to overcome the learning difficulties associated with ADD and ADHD.
This paper argues that ADHD is no longer an illness that precludes learning and living a normal life.
With the proper behavior management and coping techniques, children who are diagnosed with ADHD can look forward to living normal and productive lives.
Both ADD and ADHD sufferers, for example, can exhibit two main symptoms. The most common symptom is inattention. People with ADHD can exhibit trouble focusing on specific tasks and often find it difficult to remember and organize their work (Breznitz 2003).
The next group of symptoms falls under impulsiveness. ADHD sufferers can be prone to rash actions because they have difficulty concentrating long enough to solve a problem. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that ADHD sufferers also find it hard to maintain strong personal relationships (Breznitz 2003). As a result, they have no one to turn to for help in making well-informed decisions.
However, the two diseases differ on one important symptom - hyperactivity. A person who suffers from hyperactivity in addition to the two symptoms mentioned before suffers from ADHD. In children, these symptoms can often be confused with misbehavior, since hyperactive children find it difficult to sit still in class. Behaviors such as squirming, fidgeting and general rough housing are often seen in hyperactive children (Breznitz 2003).
Adults who suffered from ADHD as children often recalled elementary and high school years as "complete chaos." Many report fidgeting in their seats and excessive talking, behaviors which bothered other students and disrupted the class. Many were thus frequently sent to the principal's office and subjected to disciplinary actions (Schwiebert et al. 2002). In adults, however, hyperactivity can also take the form of fidgety and restless behavior. Hyperactive adults can find it difficult to read for a long time or to finish tasks that demand quiet concentration (Weyandt et al. 2003).
Effects on learning ability
ADHD and motor development
Studies have shown that children as young as five years old who have ADHD can already exhibit compromised motor skills. Kalff et al. (2003) observed the speed and accuracy that a control group of 126 healthy children, a group of 113 children suffering from other psychopathologies and a group of 74 children with "borderline ADHD" completed a set of motor tasks. The results showed that the ADHD group was less accurate than the healthy control group and the children with other psychopathology group. This was particularly true in the tasks classified as requiring a "high level" of controlled processing. Furthermore, the ADHD children had unstable performances with their tasks, even when they were using their preferred hand.
Based on these findings, Kalff et al. (2003) argue that ADHD is a dimensional trait, rather than a response-stimulus problem. The researchers are also critical of previous studies that characterize ADHD as a problem of movement speed. Rather, they argue that a child with ADHD finds it hard to control his or her movements, even in the earliest stages of ADHD. The researchers further theorize that children with "borderline ADHD" find it difficult to allocate the necessary attention required for motor skills accuracy (Kalff 2003).
Other researchers have theorized that the inability to control these motor movements contributes to a frustration that often causes a student to "act out." In conjunction with speech skills difficulty, this frustration could eventually lead to feelings of chronic failure and poor self-esteem, making it more difficult for ADHD sufferers to form social relationships (Schwiebert 2002).
Speech and verbal skills
Among the various learning skills, the link between verbal/speech and ADD is one of the well-researched.
In a study of boys with ADHD, Breznitz (2003) found significant differences in the vocalization and speech patterns of ADHD boys and a control group. This study found that boys with ADHD had differences and speech unit length. There was also a difference in the way the ADHD boys vocalized words. The boys with ADHD also used longer and more frequent pauses. While more research is needed to see whether there is an effect on word recognition and comprehension, Breznitz (2003) argues that these speech and vocalization patterns could act as early indicators of ADHD. The results of this study implies that at least on the level of vocalization and the physical task of word formation, ADHD has some detrimental defect.
Corollary to this, a study by Cutting et al. (2003) found that ADHD can affect the development of verbal skills. For example, results from the California Verbal Learning Test for Children indicate that at first, ADHD sufferers learned the same number of words as the control group. However, the ADHD children later showed significant weaknesses recalling the words after delays, resulting in lower verbal IQ scores. This study thus implies that weaknesses in the verbal domain are connected with the ability to retain and recall new information, a facility that appears compromised in ADHD sufferers.
Another unexpected result of the Cutting et al. (2003) study is that there is a significant difference in the recall and verbal abilities of girls and boys, regardless of ADHD status. Thus, girls with ADHD show higher skills across the board compared with their male counterparts.
These results have significant implications for the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, particularly among younger students.
Results from the Cutting et al. (2003) study show that initial word and sentence comprehension is not as much a problem as recollection. These findings should help psychologists and counselors create more effective treatment techniques, ones that also address the differences between the genders.
Reading comprehension and mathematics skills
In addition to motor skills, Breznitz's (2003) study found no difference between the word recognition skills of a group of ADHD children and a control group. The results of this study also showed that children with ADHD scored lower than an equivalent control group on tests measuring reading comprehension, "decoding" measures and reading time.
Other studies have shown that these early reading difficulties continue into adolescence. Toplak et al. (2003) showed that children with ADHD continued to have difficulties with recall. The authors of this study point to the role of short-term and working memory in explaining these results.
These results hold true for mathematics skills as well. Studies of test scores show that children and teenagers with ADHD have significantly lower scores in standardized math tests (Schwiebert 2002).
These tests range from basic mathematics skills to more advanced tests in algebra, geometry and trigonometry.
Breznitz (2003) found that the gap in math scores shows up as early as kindergarten and elementary school. Students with ADHD scored lower than a control group in tests that involved basic arithmetic computations. In fact, the ADHD group posted lower math scores than a similar group of students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia.
These results indicate that ADHD plays a strong role in the development of more advanced learning skills like reading and math. These effects begin in early childhood, and if left unaddressed, could continue throughout adolescence.
Social skills and interpersonal relationships
For many parents, the effects of ADHD on the development of social skills and the effects of ADHD on behavior programs are of particular concern. This is understandable, given the importance of learning these skills on a person's ability to live independently and to function well in society.
For many parents, the greatest worries lie with the development of antisocial behavior. Schwiebert et al. (2002) found that in addition to academic difficulties, adolescents with ADHD were more likely to be suspended or expelled from school. The reasons for this include reasons like "frequent defiance and noncompliance" with rules and authority figures, getting into fights, stealing and vandalism. This behavior additionally makes…