ADHD: What is it and What Should I Expect?

By Brooke Nalesnik1, Amy Le1, Mary Ann Talley1, & Elizabeth Cato1

Image: (TruSpine, 2017)4

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral disorder for school-age children in the United States2. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH)3 defines ADHD as “a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.”

Who is affected?

Image: (CDC, 2017)4

Exploration of a diagnosis begins as early as the age of two. Caregivers, teachers, or other medical professionals may refer children for an evaluation after showing the following characteristics:

  • Inattention: difficulty staying on task
  • Impulsivity: making hasty decisions without thinking through the consequences
  • Hyperactivity: needing constant movement

In a 2011-2012 report, approximately 6.4 million children, ages 4–17 years, went undiagnosed without proper treatment2. Pediatricians and psychologists diagnose individuals with ADHD. As caregivers, friends, and professionals, it is important to know about factors that put children at a greater risk for purposes of identification. This does not mean that individuals with ADHD will have contributing factors; and no one
should assume that these factors cause ADHD. The following are factors that may put children at a greater risk for ADHD6:

  • Gender (males are more commonly affected by ADHD than females)
  • Genetics
  • Drug/alcohol use during pregnancy
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
  • Low birth weight
  • Brain injuries

Types of ADHD

The three core characteristics of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. A diagnosis of
ADHD is classified into three different types:

  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation
  • Combined Presentation

Social Challenges 

ADHD can have lasting effects on a child’s social interaction, such as:

  • Troubled relationships with peers 
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends 
  • Inappropriate social behavior

Image: (Zen Parent, 2017)6

Along with social difficulties, symptoms of ADHD may also directly affect the child’s ability to learn and thrive in an educational setting.

Educational Challenges 

Learning disabilities, anxiety disorder, depression, and substance abuse commonly coexist in individuals with ADHD7. The U.S. Department of Education8 recommends monitoring students if they demonstrate one or more of the following actions:

  • Failure to understand or follow rules 
  • Failure to complete required tasks 
  • Classroom disruptions 
  • Poor academic performance 

Regarding academic difficulties, students with ADHD experienced more failing grades, lower averages, and more expulsions than those students without ADHD7. ADHD education and awareness of ADHD’s common characteristics is imperative for early identification and prevention.  

Image: (MedicWiz, 2016)9


We encourage every individual to view this video, as it gives a deeper understanding of how the school system can impact the quality of life of a child with a disability or difference. 

Dear Teachers: Heartfelt Advice for Teachers from Students

“If children can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” 

-Ignacio Estrada


1Communication Sciences and Disorders Graduate Students from Dr. Ashley Bourque Meaux’s (CCC-SLP) Language and Literacy class

2 Pastor, P. N., Reuben, C. A., Duran, C. R., & Hawkins, L. D. (2015). Association between  diagnosed ADHD and selected characteristics among children aged 4-17 years: United  states, 2011-2013. NCHS Data Brief. Number 201. Retrieved from

3 National Institute of Mental Health (2017). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved from adhd 

4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder  (ADHD). Retrieved from 

5 TruSpine. (2017). [Digital image]. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from 

6 Zen Parent. (2017). [Digital image]. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from 

7 National Institute of Mental Health (2016). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved  from d/index.shtml 

8 U. S. Department of Education (2009). How does ADHD affect school performance? Retrieved  on September 18, 2017, from identifying_pg4.html 

9 MedicWiz. (2016). [Digital image]. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from it-hyperactivity-disorder 

10 [Brainhighways]. (2015, August 28). Dear teacher: Heartfelt advice for teachers from students [Video file]. Retrieved from