We checked in with Dr. Andrew Adesman, who heads the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics department of Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., to give us the lowdown on attention disorders and those oft-used acronyms, ADD and ADHD.
What's the difference between ADD and ADHD?
There's a confusing tendency to refer to non-hyperactive attention deficit disorder as ADD to differentiate it from the type that also includes hyperactivity. But really ADHD is the umbrella term for the entire disorder.
What are treatment options?
Treatment is mostly about intervention and management: intervention in the classroom and home settings, and also medical intervention and management of behavior and actions. At home, the parent and a psychologist work together to educate the parent on how to form effective positive consequences for good behavior and negative ones for bad. The child has to be motivated to adapt [his or her] behavior. Medication is tricky. Some see it as a last resort and others see it as part of an initial treatment plan.
Are there any new treatments people are talking about?
The essential fatty acids and fish oils seem to be somewhat effective. But it might not be sufficient. Neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback is a controversial treatment because it's expensive and the research is mixed about its effectiveness. Although I do not generally recommend it, there are those who advocate it as effective.
How can you tell if a child is just a normal, bouncy kid or if he or she has ADHD?
Diagnosis is a challenge. Children with ADHD don’t differ that much from children who don’t have it, [except in] the severity and frequency of being distracted. If it’s significant and ... interfering with a child’s function, then it’s likely ADHD. If a child is struggling in school it can be ADD, but it isn’t always. There are no blood tests, no neurological tests. We’re relying on clinical history from families and teachers. Diagnosis needs to be a careful study of the child and the overall situation.