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Common Misconceptions About ADHD

Common Misconceptions About ADHD

ADHD is often misunderstood. From who is affected by ADHD, to the best treatment options, parents usually have many questions. Learn more about the disorder by viewing the information below.


Q: My daughter can't seem to focus in school, but is well-behaved and not 'hyper' at all. She couldn't have ADHD, could she?

A: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common developmental disorders, yet few people realize there are three types:

  • Predominantly Inattentive type. Children struggle with inattentiveness and distractibility, but not hyperactivity. Teachers may be first to notice this problem, once called attention-deficit disorder (ADD) in a structured school environment, when academic demand requires longer periods of time on task.
  • Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive type. Children show both hyperactive and impulsive behavior, but paying attention is less of a problem. Parents are often first to spot it because children – usually boys – are highly active and disruptive at home or in daycare.
  • Combined type. This includes all three core symptoms of ADHD: inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. The combined type is the most problematic form of ADHD in childhood.

Girls Easily Overlooked

You might consider having your daughter evaluated for the inattentive type of ADHD. Young girls struggling to pay attention are often overlooked because they are often quite bright, are getting passing grades and have no behavior problems.

However, they may spend much of their time in class daydreaming and not participating actively. They have trouble with "effortful" attention – concentrating on a subject or task that does not interest them, or that seems boring or repetitive. These children are doing satisfactorily, but are not working to their potential.

Two-Pronged Approach Best

For all three types of ADHD, evidence is clear that combined treatment with medication and behavioral intervention works best. Pills alone don't teach skills; children must be taught the skills to get along in the classroom. This is why behavioral intervention is so important.

At home, parents can help by encouraging positive behavioral changes. The best approach involves trying to change the circumstances in which the child works, rather than trying to change the child.

Accentuate the Positive

The key lies in using encouragement and incentives, rather than punishment alone. Punishment alone only teaches a child what not to do. Using incentives, along with timeout or taking privileges away, can teach a child both what to do (actual skills) and what not to do in order to act successfully in class, at home and in social gatherings.

Any parent who suspects a child has ADHD should be sure to contact a mental health professional who can diagnose the problem and start the intervention process.

By Michael Manos, Ph.D., Head of the Center for Pediatric Behavioral Health at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital, and founder of the ADHD Center for Evaluation and Treatment (serving children and adults).