Prevalence and Symptoms
Attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity, is the most common reason for referral of children to child guidance clinics and specialists in child behavior and developmental medicine. The precise incidence of this disorder is not clear, but most experts agree that between 2% and 5% of children have it. Many children, particularly girls, who have attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity, are diagnosed either late or incorrectly.
For most children, the core symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are hyperactivity, short attention span, distractibility, and impulsiveness. Most parents are aware of these problem behaviors by toddler hood or preschool, but they often become more apparent, and sometimes are greatly exaggerated, once the child enters school. Teachers complain that these children do not listen, disturb other children, cannot concentrate, cannot sit still, and have a short attention span.
As the years go by, the problems mount. The disorder sabotage academic performance; grades substantially understate the child's potential in most cases. In addition, the impulsive behavior ruins relationships with other young people and adults. If left untreated, the child may exhibit chronic school underachievement, behavioral problems, conduct disorders, and, not infrequently, depression and/or anxiety.