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When It Is More Than Just ADHD

Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah

Ed.D Educational Psychology & Special Education

ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactive disorder) often occurs with other conditions. Approximately 60% of children that have been diagnosed with ADHD have at least one accompanying condition; around 20% of children with ADHD have 3 or more accompanying conditions. Anxiety, behavior issues, depression, speech & language problems, and learning disabilities are the most frequent.

Accompanying conditions may share many of the same characteristics or symptoms of ADHD. Accompanying conditions in young children are particularly hard to identify correctly because children's behavior changes frequently and certain conditions can only be diagnosed over time. What seemed at four years old to be a developing behavior disorder, may turn out to be ADHD.

Many children with ADHD experience accompanying issues as well. Such as functioning difficulties that are not formally defined as disabilities but still require special attention. For example, many children with ADHD (up to 70%) have some sort of academic challenge in school. This can be in subjects (reading, math, history), skills (such as handwriting), or productivity ( completing assignments accurately and on time)

In many cases, an accompanying condition may affect a child's functioning in ways that require changes in his educational or treatment plan. Sometimes, as in the case of a behavior disorder, symptoms of the behavior disorder may be more problematic than the ADHD, and must be treated first to get it under control. In addition, a child's home environment may play an important role. The behavior of the child with ADHD may cause stress within the family resulting in the child's symptoms becoming more severe.

Continued monitoring is important throughout childhood and adolescence because some accompanying conditions may develop long after the first diagnosis of ADHD, and others may disappear over time.

Some of the most common accompanying conditions to ADHD

  • Disruptive behavior disorders

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Mood disorders

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Tics- Tourettes Syndrome, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Educational Challenges, Motor skills problems, and communication disorders

  • Intellectual disabilities

  • Autism, pervasive developmental disorders (PDD)

There are other issues that might either look like ADHD or make the symptoms of ADHD stand out more, these include:

  • Sensory problems

  • Sleep issues

  • Certain physical illnesses (thyroid, hypoglycemia, diabetes, or side effects of medications),

  • abuse

With early diagnosis and a good treatment and therapy program, you and your child may be able to minimize many of the effects of disorders and challenges that do appear. Family support is also an important factor in increasing the likelihood that he/she will function well, despite these conditions.


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