Ask A Doc: What is ADHD?

Kimberly Fenbert, DNP, CPNP from NOMG’s Pediatric office answers your questions about ADHD.

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. Adults are also affected by ADHD. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. Many ADHD symptoms such as high activity level, difficulty sitting still for long periods and limited attention spans, are common to young children in general. The difference in children with ADHD is that their hyperactivity and inattention are noticeably greater than expected for their age and cause issues and/or problems functioning at home, school or with friends.

When is someone typically diagnosed with ADHD?

There is no lab test to diagnose ADHD. Diagnosis involves gathering information from parents, teachers and others, filling out checklists and having a medical evaluation (including vision and hearing screening) to rule out other medical problems. Other conditions that can coexist with ADHD include anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant, and conduct disorders, learning and language disorders, tics and sleep apnea.

What are the signs of ADHD?

Children with ADHD will often lack focus, forget or lose homework, “act as if driven by a motor” –moving, squirming, and talking at inappropriate times. They can be impulsive, impatient, and interrupt others. They are often disorganized and cannot complete a task when asked due to lack of focus. They may not seem to listen when spoken to directly. They don’t follow through on instructions and fail to finish homework, chores or duties due to getting sidetracked. They may have trouble waiting his or her turn and be unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly.

How do you treat ADHD?

There is no cure for ADHD, but there are treatments that can reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Treatments include medication and behavior therapy. The goals of behavior therapy are to encourage positive behaviors and discourage unwanted or problem behaviors.  Parents learn to use skills to better manage their child’s behavior. Children learn new behaviors to replace behaviors to replace behaviors that cause problems. Often behavior therapy is started first in children aged 4-5 years, but in combination with medication in children age 6 years and up.


For many people, ADHD medications decrease hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve their ability to focus, work and learn. Anyone taking medications must be monitored closely. Two types of medications are used in the treatment of ADHD: stimulants and non-stimulants. Patients work closely with their provider to determine which type of medication is best for them. Sometimes several different medications and dosages need to be tried before the right medication is found.

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