Reviewed by Kathy Empen on June 08, 2012


"Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)." Thomas E. Brown, PhD, assistant clinical professor, psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine; associate director, Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders. Edward Gotlieb, MD, FAAP, FASM, pediatrician. Chris A. Zeigler Dendy, MS, mental health counselor; former teacher and school psychologist.

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Video Transcript

Noah: Stop it Christopher! Ow!

Narrator: Boys will be boys. Some a little more than others. Noah and Christopher have a lot in common…

Christopher's mom: Do you want to go home or do you want to play?

Narrator: …including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.

Laura Markson: Christopher is having a hard time.

Christopher's mom: You need to calm down

Laura Markson: They're very forgiving of each other I think because they are used to each other and, for example, Noah will take a punch from Christopher because in another situation he might get frustrated enough to punch some child. I need to get him…Noah! Out of the road, honey! Noah stop!

Narrator: In many ways they tend to embody those impulsive and explosive traits that in generations past would have labeled them simply as "hyperactive".

Edward Gotlieb, MD: Boys tend to be…uhm, acting out sorts of people. They're externalizing in their behavior.

Narrator : While more boys than girls with ADHD do tend to bounce off the walls, it's not a given. Some girls will "act out" while some boys are quietly distracted. Experts today place less emphasis on behavior when diagnosing ADHD and more on the array of brain-coping skills, such as memory, focus, and a child's ability to regulate his or her emotions.

Thomas E. Brown, PhD: Everybody can recognize the 3-year-old who's been kicked out of three daycare facilities because they're too disruptive and aggressive because of their ADD, but the kid who's sort of quietly having trouble in school and not putting out often is seen as a motivational problem.

Narrator : If not for attentive parents, Mary Neslund may well have fallen through the cracks like so many other girls with ADHD. She was diagnosed in kindergarten—less disruptive children with the condition are often not discovered until middle school or later.

Chris Zeigler Dendy, MS: They have to be organized, they have to plan ahead, they have to work independently, they have to use their memory to hold information in mind.

Thomas E. Brown, PhD: So what that's telling us is, there're a lot of girls and women out there who have this problem, who are not being identified as having it because they're not making enough trouble for other people.

Narrator: Under the guidance of competent mental health professionals, Mary's family put her on a medication that's been effective in keeping her focused in school. She recently graduated high school with honors and will attend college. But in spite of her progress, gaining the acceptance of some of her peers was sometimes like swimming upstream.

Mary Neslund: Kids have brought me to tears talking about it, because they just don't believe it's real.

Laura Markson: Noah honey…you're showing off a little (laughs)…

Thomas E. Brown, PhD: It's important to keep in mind that ADD is not a cookie cutter problem—that there are some people who have this who are very outgoing and gregarious, there are other people who are very shy and constricted. There are some people who are obnoxious and overbearing, there are other people who bend over backwards not to offend people.

Christopher: I'm your friend.

Narrator: However the symptoms are expressed, those with ADHD are, like the rest of us, mostly just looking for a way to fit in. For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg