Recognizing and Diagnosing Inattentive ADHD
I left the world of ADHD, where I was the founder and director of the now defunct nonprofit, ADD Resources, more than 15 years ago. Then, during the pandemic, I started writing my memoirs about living with ADD and immersed myself in updating my knowledge. What I learned upset me.
We’re still drawing on research done years ago on white, hyperactive boys. There are few studies and less evidence on girls and women. Likewise, boys and girls with inattentive ADHD (formerly known as ADD) remain under the radar.
Why? Newer articles offer the same old explanation from decades ago: Children with inattentive ADHD are underdiagnosed because they don’t interfere in class. We haven’t made any progress in 15 years. We are still making the same unacceptable explanation for not helping these children. Some clinicians have sounded the alarm, but their cries have not penetrated the public or the understanding of teachers that ADHD presents itself in two different ways – with and without hyperactivity.
To keep children from falling through the cracks, the public, parents, and teachers need to recognize that both ADHD presentations are in dire need of diagnosis and treatment.
I have a few suggestions that might help.
[Could Your Child Have ADD (aka Inattentive ADHD)? Take This Test]
1. Increase inattentive ADHD: Whenever someone writes or speaks about ADHD, they should first talk about the symptoms of inattention and emphasize that this form of ADHD is underdiagnosed and how this needs to change as undiagnosed ADHD has a negative impact on young life. They should describe how parents and teachers can identify inattentive ADHD symptoms. When I got to Dr. Hallowell asked if inattentive ADHD could be detected in children, he willingly said, “Yes. You just have to ask them how they spent their time in school, how their day went, what they learned. “
2. Children with inattentive ADHD are usually not aggressive; they are not tyrants; and they are usually not disrespectful to authority or overly stubborn. When describing ADHD behavior, speakers and authors should clearly distinguish hyperactive symptoms from inattentive symptoms. When the behaviors are combined or mixed up, a parent or teacher of a child with inattentive ADHD may say, “This doesn’t describe my child or student.”
3. When describing symptoms of inattentiveness, speakers and authors often say that this presentation is seen more often in girls. In order to raise awareness, we must emphasize that Inattentive ADHD exists in both boys and girls. I know because I have a son with inattentive ADHD.
4th We need research that separates hyperactive-impulsive or combined ADHD from inattentive ADHD. Most research groups all forms of ADHD together, although they are not created equal.
[Read: “Are You Listening?” What Inattentive ADHD Looks Like — and Responds To]
5. Knowledge and understanding of the differences are improving, but further progress is needed. If you share my concern about the underdiagnosis of children with inattentive ADHD, visit iadhd.org, the website of the nonprofit organization, the Inattentive ADHD coalition. Together we will find ways to make a lasting difference.
ADD Symptoms: Next Steps
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Updated July 26, 2021