What are the Differences Between ADD and ADHD?

As a former special education teacher, I care deeply about the instruction of students with special needs. Because of this, I have spent decades perfecting my craft, and I now consider myself to be somewhat of an expert. So, when I hear people say ADD when they really mean ADHD, it kind of makes me cringe a bit. Why? Because there are stark differences between the two, and incorrectly identifying a disability can mean the difference between a child failing academically or receiving the help that they need.

Let’s discuss this issue. ADD is an old term from a time long passed that has found a way to live on. For years, ADD was a term used to describe a specific kind of ADHD. But it hasn’t been a diagnosis for many moons.

Let’s learn more about the difference between the terms ADD and ADHD.

What People Mean by ADD

The main between the words ADD and ADHD has to do with symptoms. ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) has three primary symptoms:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

Many people with ADHD have deficiencies in all three areas. But most have issues with focus or attention. Prior to 1994, these individuals would have been given a diagnosis of ADD. Today, the accepted diagnosis is ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type.

There are several words that people use to refer to this type of ADHD. You might hear:

  • ADHD without hyperactivity
  • ADHD, Inattentive Type
  • Inattentive ADHD

Essentially, these terms mean the same thing, but they help us describe how ADHD uniquely manifests itself in individuals.

When children with ADHD struggle with focus and attention, we don’t always recognize the symptoms. We may think the child is daydreaming or simply uninterested in engaging in the learning process.

However, the inability to focus affects students in numerous ways. They may have a difficult time learning new concepts, and a result will fail academically. Or they may simply have issues following instructions. We need to understand that being easily distracted in the classroom is a major issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

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