ADHD Across the Lifespan

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the more common neurodevelopmental disorders that is often diagnosed during childhood and can last across the lifespan. Individuals with this disorder can demonstrate a whole gamut of symptoms and the disorder can look very different depending on the individual and their developmental stage in life. Not all people with ADHD are bouncing off the walls and can’t sit still. Some individuals with ADHD can present as very inattentive and distracted and some can have struggles in social situations and relationships. 

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ADHD is broken into three subtypes: Primarily Hyperactive/ Impulsive, Primarily Inattentive, or Combined Type.  There is no medical test to identify ADHD; rather clinicians use self-report ratings from the client and teacher/ parent observations along with clinical observations to identify ADHD. Often students with ADHD struggle with learning and poor academic performance at school and adults with ADHD can struggle with staying on top of bills and household responsibilities and tasks at work. Adolescents and adults with ADHD can struggle to understand social norms, appropriate boundaries, and interpersonal communication in relationships. There is no cure for ADHD but people can learn to manage their symptoms.Symptoms can be more problematic depending on the expectations of the environment. Psychotherapy to work on organizational, social, and coping skills and stimulant medications are often used to treat the symptoms of this disorder. 

Individuals with ADHD can be extremely creative, artistic, and adventurous.  It is very possible to be successful in life if you have ADHD, you just need to figure out what works best for you to manage your symptoms. 

So what can ADHD look like in an elementary school student?

José talks a mile a minute and won’t sit still….. ever. He does his math fact sheet standing up.  He seems to always be wondering around the room. José blurts out answers and never raises his hand.  Most of the time, the answers don’t have anything to do with the question. He also is always touching the other kids and taking their markers without asking. José’s book bag is filled with papers, candy wrappers, and trash. José always forgets his homework at home or hands his homework inincomplete. At the end of the day he seems to just throw everything into his book bag or takes nothing home at all. José struggles to walk quietly in the hall and is usually running out of the room when it is time to transition to lunch. Jose’ seems like he has so much energy and like he is constantly moving and talking. José is a happy kid and likes to please others. – Jose has ADHD Primarily Hyperactive/ Impulsive Type.

What can ADHD look like in a middle school student?

Daisy is very quiet and sweet. She likes to doodle and draw in her notebook during class. Sometimes she just stares off and seems to enjoy daydreaming. Daisy will stare out the window the majority of class and seems to easily get mesmerized or drawn off task by any interruption.  Daisy is respectful and doesn’t cause any trouble. She seems to be forgetful and often leaves things in her locker and at home. Daisy is always the last one to finish tests and does poorly on timed tests. Teachers always have to repeat directions and questions to her. It seems like Daisy doesn’t get things or has memory problems. Her teachers wonder if maybe she has hearing or vision problems because she works so slowly and seems to never get all the details right for assignments.   Daisy has ADHD PrimarilyInattentive Type. 

What can ADHD look like in a high school student?

Ryan is always getting into fights at school and talks back to his teachers. He can be very sarcastic and doesn’t seem to think before he talks. Ryan is the only one who thinks that his jokes are funny and he seems to tell jokes at the most inappropriate times. His mouth often gets him into trouble. He also tends to get too close to girls when he talks to them and this creeps them out. Ryan makes poor choices and is easily influenced by his peers; he has been caught drinking and smoking.  Ryan hates writing essays and math class. He has poor grades, doesn’t do his homework, and often doesn’t finish his tests. Ryan is slow to start working and slow to finish his work. His favorite class is gym where he excels but he has a poor grade because he always forgets his clothes at home. In his other classes, if Ryan is not sitting right in the front of the room, he doesn’t do anything except bother his classmates. Ryan just seems like such a hard kid to like, he is smart and has potential but he just doesn’t know how to use it. Ryan has ADHD Primarily Combined Type

What can ADHD look like in an adult?

Abbie just graduated college and started her first job. She is late to work every day and usually spills coffee on her outfit at least once a week. Abbie is usually running in the door 10 minutes late with wrinkly clothes and never looks put together. She always interrupts her coworkers and forgets to respond to emails. A few times her coworkers had to pick up her lunch tab because her credit card was declined. Abbie is awful at managing money and usually pays overdraft fees and forgets to pay her bills on time. Abbie fidgets at her desk and constantly taps her pencil in meetings. She says this helps her to focus but it seems like she is never paying attention. Abbie also constantly talks over people and interrupts them during meetings. She usually waits until the last minute to start projects and rushes to get them done. Her work is sloppy and she gets poor reviews especially for time management and organization. Abbie has ADHD Combined Type.

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