ADHD: A Women’s Issue

ADHD: A Women’s Issue
Fighting gender bias in research

“Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is readily associated with boys, however, girls are also affected. It is argued that the impact of this perception in school-aged children is disadvantaging girls by either missing or misdiagnosing ADHD.”

“Although the behavior problems associated with ADHD are the most well researched and reported of the childhood disorders (Barkley, 2003), the majority of this research has been on boys with a focus on the hyperactivity and impulsivity component (Lovecky, 2004; Wicks-Nelson & Israel, 1997). In comparison, there is scarce research about girls with ADHD (Biederman, et al., 1999; Gaub & Carlson, 1997; Hartung, et al., 2002). It seems that ADHD in girls often remains undetected and these girls are often invisible to many professionals, parents and society in general.”[1]

“Even though most of the research has focused on boys, it has been generally found that ADHD manifests itself similar in both males and females. The research has convincingly shown that males and females with ADHD are more similar than different and struggle with similar rates of academic, cognitive, psychosocial, and psychiatric impairment (Rucklidge, 2008). In addition, research has found that females with ADHD are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and more likely than males to have the Inattentive Type of ADHD (Biederman, 2002; Rucklidge, 2008). The inattentive type of ADHD is difficult to observe and identify in that the symptoms are less overt than the disruptive behaviors typically seen among males (Quinn, 2005). Further, the limited research available consistently shows that when females are identified as having ADHD they are as impaired as or more impaired than their male counterparts (Biederman et al. 2005, Carlson, Tamm, & Gaub, 1999, Dalsgaard et al., 2005; Dupaul et al. 2006; Reimherr et al., 2008, Rucklidge & Tannock, 2001).”[2]Women_Lost_SM

Future direction

“Historically, research on ADHD has focused almost exclusively on hyperactive little boys, and only in the past six or seven years has any research focused on adult ADHD,” says Nadeau, an expert on the disorder in women and director of Chesapeake Psychological Services of Maryland in Silver Spring. “And the recognition of females [with the disorder] has lagged even further behind.”

“Nadeau, observed clinically for years: “that girls experience significant struggles that are often overlooked because their ADHD symptoms bear little resemblance to those of boys.” It was also a signal for her to push even harder to raise the awareness of the needs of women with the disorder. Through advocacy and groundbreaking research and writing, Nadeau and a small group of psychologists are fighting to bring the issues of ADHD in women from the fringes of research to center stage.”

“More research on gender issues in ADHD is needed for several reasons, says Julia J. Rucklidge, PhD, assistant psychology professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, who has studied ADHD in Canadian women. “We can’t make assumptions that what applies to males will apply to females–females have different hormonal influences to start with that can greatly affect their behavior.” Also, Rucklidge says, females are socialized differently and therefore tend to express themselves in a different manner, and are more susceptible to such problems as depression or anxiety that again influence behavior. This suggests that ADHD “will manifest and express itself differently in females,” she says. “But only research can tell us this definitively. Until then, these are assumptions that we make.”[3]

“Current models suggest that executive function, rather than attention, is the core deficit of ADHD and that it may serve as a neurobehavioral domain that differentiates individuals with ADHD based on subtype and gender (Wodka et al., 2008).”[4]

As we can see everyone has different needs when it comes to ADHD. Play Attention does have a full behavior shaping component, for those who need to learn how to control disruptive or impulsive behaviors. However, if your child does not have the behavioral issues, you may simply turn that component off.

Complete our short survey and help us customize a Play Attention program that will address your specific needs. To learn more:[5]

Play Attention integrates feedback technology with cognitive skill training and behavior shaping. You may learn more about Play Attention at one of our upcoming Speed Webinars:,[6]












ADHD Women: “It Takes All Kinds”

ADHD Women: “It Takes All Kinds”
Famous Female Powerhouses with ADHD . . .

You are not alone
When researching this article I was a bit surprised to find out how many famous, successful women have ADHD! These famous women with ADHD don’t let their diagnosis, symptoms, or the world, hold them back. Be inspired by these leading ladies stories and get motivated to be proactive about your ADHD!

Lisa Ling — Renowned journalist Lisa Ling got a sneaking suspicion that she might have ADHD during the filming of a recent ADHD–themed episode of “Our America With Lisa Ling.” Her reporting on the disorder compelled her to get an evaluation, and at age 40, she was diagnosed with adult ADHD. “My head is kind of spinning,” she said in the episode after receiving her diagnosis. “But I feel a little bit of relief because, for so long, I’ve been fighting it and I’ve been so frustrated with this inability to focus.”

Karina Smirnoff — Karina Smirnoff of Dancing with the Stars has lived with ADHD her entire life, but wasn’t properly diagnosed until adulthood. She’s worked with her doctor to find the best treatment for her inattention and impulsivity. As a professional dancer, Smirnoff channels her ADHD energy into her work.Women_Eye_SM

Bex Taylor-Klaus — Bex Taylor-Klaus, 19, has come a long way since her third-grade after-school drama class. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Taylor-Klaus now travels between Los Angeles and Vancouver to play roles on the hit TV shows Arrow, The Killing, and House of Lies. Her advice to ADHDers? “Embrace it. It may be a nuisance, it may be hard to deal with sometimes, but you can learn to manage it. Don’t ever try to get rid of it entirely. Attention deficit makes you special.”1

Cynthia Gerdes — Owner of Hell’s Kitchen – an award-winning restaurant in Minneapolis, which brings in more than a million dollars annually – Gerdes started her career as a teacher. She owned several successful toy stores before she entered the restaurant business. Gerdes, who holds bachelor’s degrees in education and business administration from the University of North Carolina, was always able to work the long hours her jobs demanded, but when it came to smaller tasks, like food shopping, she was lost.
“I couldn’t cook,” she says. “And even with a grocery list, I couldn’t get the five ingredients I needed.”
The restaurant exec has found that making adjustments in her schedule is enough to keep her ADD/ADHD in check. “I won’t do two meetings in a row,” she says, “because I know I can’t sit still that long.” Taking breaks while reviewing menus and bills helps, too.
She still has problems with grocery shopping. Her husband, who is a chef, is supportive. “He is amused and bemused when I spin in circles around the house,” she says. “Thank God, he is a chef!”

Patricia Quinn, M.D., — “I’m not the sort of person who thinks ADD is a strength, but I do think you can use it to become successful,” says Dr. Patricia Quinn, who practices in Washington, D.C.
Quinn’s mission these days is to highlight the problems facing women and girls with ADD. In 1997, she cofounded, with Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., The National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD, and she has written several books on the topic. She believes that the condition often goes undiagnosed in girls and women because it tends not to cause hyperactivity the way it does in men. “Girls and women are not bothering anybody, so they don’t get diagnosed.”
Quinn, who does not use medication to manage symptoms, says that discovering that she had the condition helped explain why she felt so different from other medical students. She believes that it was, ultimately, hard work that got her to where she is today. “I had a lot of success despite my ADD,” she says.2

Read Play Attention’s success stories and find out how the play attention team can help you live life to your full potential:

Play Attention can custom build your program to meet your specific needs at no extra charge. So call 800-788-6786 and request a free consultation or request a quote at When you decide to start your Play Attention program, you will be assigned an educational support advisor to assist you every step of the way!






ADHD Women: Will I have a “Mini Me”?

ADHD Women: Will I have a “Mini Me”?
Is ADHD genetic among our daughters?

As research has narrowed in on what causes ADHD, scientists recognize the strong role genetics play. Therefore, much of the research into ADHD is devoted to understanding genes. In 2010, British researchers identified small pieces of DNA that are either duplicated or missing in the brains of children with ADHD. These affected genetic segments, have also been linked to autism and schizophrenia.1

One of the important shortcomings of most of the research based information on ADHD/ADD is that the vast majority of studies have been conducted solely on boys, or, have included very few girls in the sample. As a result, the scientific literature on ADHD/ADD is almost exclusively based on male subjects.

A study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health on a large group of girls both with and without ADHD/ADD was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Biederman, J. et al., (1999). Clinical correlates of ADHD/ADD in females: Findings from a large group of girls ascertained from pediatric and psychiatric referral sources. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 38, 966-975. In this study, the authors examined the clinical correlates of ADHD/ADD in girls so that similarities and differences with what has been found among boys with ADHD/ADD could be ascertained. This study represents the largest and most comprehensive study of girls with ADHD/ADD that has been published to date.

The major findings are summarized below.

Girls with ADHD/ADD were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with other disorders as well.

Compared to girls without ADHD/ADD, girls with ADHD/ADD were more likely to be diagnosed with co-morbid conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.Mother_Daughter_SM


Girls with ADHD/ADD had scores on measures of intellectual functioning and academic achievement that were modestly lower than what was found in the non-ADHD/ADD girls. They were also about 2.5 more likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability, more than 16 times more likely to have repeated a grade in school, and almost 10 times as likely to have been placed in a special class at school.2

Play Attention was developed to deal with these kinds of difficulties in the executive functioning areas of the brain through the development of cognitive skill sets. To learn more, peruse our website and check out our cognitive games.3 Play Attention integrates feedback technology with cognitive skill training and behavior shaping. You may learn more about Play Attention at one of our upcoming Speed Webinars,4 At the webinar you can learn how Play Attention can help your child develop coping skills that will last a lifetime.


The results of this study make clear that ADHD/ADD in girls is as serious a condition and has a comparably large negative impact on children’s functioning and adjustment as it does in boys. Overall, the correlates of ADHD/ADD in girls were remarkably similar to what is known to be true for boys. Among the few differences found were that girls were less likely to be diagnosed with a co-morbid behavior disorder than boys (i.e. oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder) and perhaps more likely to have problems related to substance use. Rates of mood and anxiety disorders, and impairment in academic functioning appeared to be quite comparable.

The lower rates of disruptive behavior problems, along with the preponderance of inattentive symptoms relative to hyperactive/ impulsive symptoms, may partially explain why ADHD/ADD in girls may often not be recognized. Because rates of mood and anxiety disorders were similar to what has been found in boys, the authors speculate that in conjunction with the lower levels of disruptive behavior and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, this may lead clinicians to diagnose girls with the former types of disorders rather than ADHD/ADD. In fact, in a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics it was reported that pediatricians were significantly more likely to diagnose boys with ADHD/ADD than girls, even when the problems described by parents were quite comparable.

The authors stress that clinicians need to be aware that, despite their lower rates of disruptive disorders, ADHD/ADD in girls is a serious condition associated with impairment in multiple areas of children’s functioning. Thus, there is no reason to assume that the treatment of girls with ADHD/ADD should be any less aggressive or comprehensive than that of boys. 5

ADHD Is Often Harder On Girls

ADHD symptoms are more congruent with stereotypes of boys. Boys aren’t expected to like school; it’s not a surprise when a boy is loud, aggressive or defiant; boys aren’t expected to be neat, orderly or always polite. In fact, some studies have shown that boys with ADD (ADHD) are admired by other boys for ADD (ADHD)-related traits.

But while “boys will be boys”, girls are expected to be “young ladies” – i.e., compliant, considerate, and self-controlled. They are expected to be good listeners, not to interrupt, grab, or push. When a girl has trouble conforming to those expectations, when she doesn’t fit in with other girls her age, when she is frequently corrected and criticized by parents and teachers, she begins to feel badly about herself at an early age.

ADD (ADHD) has a “bad name” in many circles. Some parents, with the best of intentions, reject the “ADD (ADHD) label” for their daughter fearing the label will only make her struggles worse. And even when parents seek diagnosis and treatment, many girls, reject the ADD (ADHD) label. “I can’t have ADD (ADHD)! I’m nothing like ‘those boys’ who are hyper, who are always in trouble and do poorly in school.”6

In the upcoming series about ADHD and Women we will discuss ways to help your daughter and be your child’s best advocate – Play Attention.7

To Be Continued . . .












Children with ADHD at Risk for Binge Eating

Children with ADHD at Risk for Binge Eating
Lack of control increases risk

Many medications taken for ADHD result in appetite loss, so it’s hard to fathom that binge eating could be related to ADHD. Yet a new study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center reveals that children with ADHD are significantly more likely to have an eating disorder.

The researchers term the disorder, ‘loss of control eating syndrome’, and find it quite similar to binge eating, a disorder commonly found in adults. The disorder is defined by an inability to stop eating at times with lack of control to stop at will. ADHD children were 12 times more likely to have this disorder than children without ADHD.

The findings of this research indicate a possible link between ADHD and a lack of control for binge eating. However, Dr. Reinblatt, lead author of the study, says the roots of the underlying connection remain unknown and require additional research. Reinblatt thinks the two conditions may result from a genetic predisposition to impulsivity. This view would reflect prior research.

Reinblatt, thinks it would be wise for clinicians to screen for both ADHD and loss of control eating behaviors as a preventative measure.

Does ADHD Mean I Have Less Attention?

Does ADHD Mean I Have Less Attention?
You’ll be surprised by the answer

It’s ADHD Awareness Month. Spread the word.

Read More:

ADHD key symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It is normal for all children to exhibit these behaviors, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

But do children with ADHD really have less attention than their peers? Attention deficit is actually a misnomer of sorts; ADHD children do not have less attention or a ‘deficit’ of attention. Actually their attention is quite substantial, however their ability to direct it or manage it at will is very difficult.

Try to imagine this: four television stations playing in your mind at one time. A lot of information is pouring in, but it’s difficult for you to pay attention to any one thing for very long. That’s the typical mind of an ADHD person. Thus, their attention is not deficit, but it is fleeting; it’s directed quickly from one thing to another.

Think of it like this: you enter a cave with a flashlight (the flashlight will serve as a metaphor for attention). It’s very dark, but you very carefully shine the flashlight in the cave, directing it on the floor to carefully navigate. Your ADHD child enters the same cave with that same flashlight. He constantly shines it all over the cave as he walks forward. So, it’s clear, same flashlight (same attention), but his is scattered or diffused.

Now you know why he’ll walk through the living room time after time and bang his shin or knee on the same coffee table for years.

Now you know why, when you ask him to go to his bedroom, put on his pajamas, and get ready for bed, you find him sitting on his bed a half hour later playing a Game-boy. He processed the, “Go to your bedroom” part. His brain is not yet equipped to process multiple step directions. When that happens in school, it’s a mess.

But why can they play their Xbox or Play Station for hours on end? I literally have to yank the controller from my son’s hand to get him to come to dinner. A characteristic of ADHD is hyperfocus, the ability to tune out everything else and attend to only a particularly engaging stimulus. Video games use high intensity graphics and sound and are loaded with action. Your ADHD child’s mind is tuned for this type of stimulation. They can hyperfocus on this for hours on end. Unfortunately, your classroom teacher cannot compete on this level. As we’ve mentioned before, limit the use of high intensity video games.

Knowing your child’s mind is integral to understanding your child’s behavior. At times they may not respond to your demands and it creates a conflict, but it’s not due to defiance necessarily. It’s often due to the way they process or don’t process information. Knowing this can reduce your conflicts and improve your family life.

DNA chip for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

[Date: 2013-02-07]

Is your child like this? ‘He does not sit still, he makes you crazy always tapping or moving his leg, he cannot do one thing at a time and he is unable to remain seated at the table during dinner. It’s like he’s got a motor in him; he doesn’t stop talking.’ In school you may hear teachers say things like ‘he does not listen, he does not pay attention, he loses everything, he is unable to do his own work and he makes so many mistakes’. This could be a case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is the most common childhood neuropsychiatric disorder. It is a potentially serious problem; a European survey conducted in 2010 found that children with ADHD are statistically more likely to be afflicted with other impairments on their quality of life than children without ADHD. Yet, despite the warning signs, parents take on average 26.8 months to achieve a diagnosis for their child. One reason is that there is currently no tool to confirm an ADHD diagnosis. However, Spanish researcher Araitz Molano-Bilbao from the the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country has come up with an innovation that she believes could improve the rate of diagnosis of this disorder, and open the way to potential new therapeutic treatments.

The prevalence of ADHD is calculated to be between 8 % and 12 % among infant-adolescents worldwide, with 50 % continuing to exhibit symptoms in adult life. Children with ADHD have great difficulty in paying attention and completing assignments, and are frequently distracted. They may also display impulsive behaviour and act inappropriately at times. They may experience greater difficulty in controlling these impulses. ‘All these symptoms seriously affect their social, academic and working life of the individuals, and impact greatly upon their families and milieu close to them,’ says Molano.

Dr. Molano studied how genetic polymorphisms (variations in the DNA sequence between different individuals) are associated with ADHD. ‘We looked for all the associations that had been described previously in the literature worldwide, and did a clinical study to see whether these polymorphisms also occurred in the Spanish population; the reason is that genetic associations vary a lot between some populations and others.’

Around 400 saliva samples of patients with ADHD and a further 400 samples from healthy controls (people without a history of psychiatric diseases) were analysed. The analysis of over 250 polymorphisms led to the discovery that 32 polymorphisms could be associated not only with the diagnosis of ADHD, but also with the evolution of the disorder, the specific ADHD subtype, the severity and the presence of comorbidities (the presence of one or more disorders).

On the basis of these results, Dr. Molano has proposed that a DNA chip with these 32 polymorphisms could be used not only for diagnosing the disorder, but also for calculating genetic susceptibility to different variables, including how well the patient is responding to drugs or the normalisation of symptoms.

The study also confirmed the existence of three distinct ADHD subtypes: lack of attention, hyperactivity, and a combination of both. ‘It can be seen that on the basis of genetics, the children that belong to one subtype or another are different,’ explains Dr. Molano.

By contrast, no direct associations were found between the polymorphisms analysed and the response to pharmacological treatment (atomoxetine and methylphenidate). Dr. Molano believes that this could be due to the fact that ‘in many cases, the data on drugs we had available were not rigorous.’ Dr. Molano therefore intends to pursue her research in this field. ‘We want to concentrate on the drug response aspect, obtain more, better characterised samples, and monitor the variables in the taking of drugs very closely, whether they were actually being taken or not,’ she says.

Dr. Molano hopes that this tool will reach clinics and begin to help children with ADHD.

The project was funded by Progenika Biopharma and the pharmaceutical company JUSTE SAFQ. Already 10 collaborating clinics belonging to public and private centres in Spain are looking into this tool with the aim of marketing it.

For more information, please visit:

Elhuyar Fundazioa

Category: Miscellaneous
Data Source Provider: Elhuyar Foundation
Document Reference: Based on information from Elhuyar Foundation
Subject Index: Medical biotechnology; Medicine, Health

ADHD’s Genetic Link

What causes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD? Research in the English medical journal, The Lancet, says it’s not too much sugar, bad diet, or poor parenting. Professor Anita Thapar, lead author of the study, says it’s likely genetic.

Thapar and her group of scientists at Cardiff University in Wales compared 366 children with ADHD to 1,047 kids without ADHD. In particular, the researchers examined differences in the children’s DNA. They found that kids with ADHD were more likely to have small segments of DNA that were duplicates or missing (copy number variants or CNVs — either a deletion or duplication of genetic material).

“We hope that these findings will help overcome the stigma associated with ADHD,” Professor Anita Thapar, the study’s lead author, said in a written statement. “Too often, people dismiss ADHD as being down to bad parenting or poor diet. As a clinician, it was clear to me that this was unlikely to be the case. Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children.”

While being media friendly, Thapar’s last statement is a stretch in relation to her research. People and the media love statements that provide seemingly conclusive answers.

Let’s go beyond the media hype that says this research concludes there is a definite genetic link. The researchers really only say there seems to be a possible “genetic link.”  However, their research did not conclude that it is purely or even primarily genetic. What they truly are saying is that this study is evidence that ADHD is not purely social.

The authors conclude:

“Our findings provide genetic evidence of an increased rate of large CNVs in individuals with ADHD and suggest that ADHD is not purely a social construct.”

This is logical because only 15% of the research subjects with ADHD demonstrated increased CNVs. So is it safe to conclude that genetic makeup may contribute, at least in some particular cases, to ADHD? Yes, but to be clear,  this research did not conclude that it is entirely genetically based and was only partially genetically based in a small segment of their study population. This is very similar to other genetic research.

Why is it, if ADHD is genetically based, at least in part, that 30% don’t have it as adults when diagnosed as a child? What happened? Where did it go? This is what is most  important to parents and professionals.

Epigenetic theory, now being widely embraced by the scientific community, maintains that human development  includes both genetic origins of behavior and the direct influence that environmental forces have on the expression of those genes (nature/nurture). Epigenetic theory regards human development as a dynamic interaction between these two influences.

Simply put, how our genes express themselves is greatly impacted by environment. This is likely why, over time, 30% of children don’t display symptoms as adults. The brain changes, rewires, or (a radical version of epigenetic theory) their genes change.

Do tools exist to do this? Yes. See

If I may quote Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, “What seems to have happened is that parents have lost the awareness that they had for decades – if not for centuries – that concentration and self-discipline do not come naturally to children, and have to be taught (as well, sometimes, as enforced).”

The ADHD link to social dynamics

If I told you that women who received only basic education were 130 % more likely to have a child on ADHD medication than women with university degrees, you’d see a link, wouldn’t you?

Well, that’s what a  study published this month in Acta Paediatrica found.  That implies that nearly half of the serious cases of ADHD  in children are closely tied to social factors. The study reveals that factors like single parenting and poor maternal education were directly tied to ADHD medication use.

While we know that a genetic propensity likely exists, the human brain develops based on a complex interplay between nature and nurture; between genetic endowment (nature) and environment/social factors (nurture). Epigenetic theory tries to explain this relationship.

Curiously, few large-scale studies have tried to determine the impact of social and family influences on ADHD. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden assessed data on 1.16 million school children and examined the health histories of nearly 8,000 Swedish-born kids, aged six to 19, who had taken ADHD medication.

“We tracked their record through other registers … to determine a number of other factors,” said lead author Anders Hjern.

Here’s what the researchers found:

  • Living in a single parent family increased the chances of being on ADHD medication by more than 50 percent.
  • A family on welfare upped the odds of medication use by 135%.
  • Boys were three times more likely to be on medication than girls.
  • Social dynamics affected both sexes equally.

“Almost half of the cases could be explained by the socioeconomic factors included in our analysis, clearly demonstrating that these are potent predictors of ADHD-medication in Swedish school children,” Hjern said.

It’s clear that this study found a link between socioeconomic factors and ADHD medication use/diagnosis. Other US studies have found that minority children and children of low socioeconomic status were more likely to receive ADHD medication.

Factors like low income and diminished quality time are more common in single-parent families. These typically lead to stressors like family conflict and a lack of social support, Hjern said.

While more research must be done, one has to ask, is medication the answer to social stressors like lack of time and money? Sounds too silly to ask, but it seems that our answer, ridiculously, is a resounding, YES!

We are the masters of our lives. We can make significant personal changes, but we must have the tools to do so. That’s why I began Play Attention ( years ago.

What Lurks Below the ADHD Iceberg?

Virtually anyone that knows, teaches, counsels, or works with an ADHD person is aware that ADHD is not a simple matter of attention deficit. That’s just the tip of a very large iceberg.

As a matter of fact, the term ‘attention deficit’ is actually a misnomer of sorts. ADHD people have diffused attention, not a deficit or lack of attention. Ask them. I often asked ADHD students what was happening in my classroom. They could tell me about the bird outside the window, the cobwebs in the corner of the room, a little about my lesson, a little about the whispering around them, and a little about when the air conditioner was turning on and off. That’s actually a great amount of attention. It’s just scattered or diffused over a wide area all day long.

A true hallmark of ADHD is the brain’s inability to direct attention for long periods without becoming distracted. So, it’s not a deficit at all; ADHD is an inability to direct attention. But there’s more.

ADHD is also a matter of difficulty in multiple domains of cognition. These domains are also labeled “Executive Functions.” Aside from diffused attention, ADHD also encompasses difficulty in organization of thought and tasks; sustaining effort while filtering out distractions; memory (both short-term and working memory); managing behavior/emotion; and visually directing attention and actions.

How does one cope with all these areas? It seems a monumental task. Of course, the primary medical intervention is medication. Does medication actually address all of these cognitive domains? No, it does not. Medication has limitations. That’s a fact. That’s why many parents do not see academic, behavioral, or social improvements [see the MTA study] over time. Another fact is that many of these cognitive domains can be strengthened by direct instruction.

Several small and large software companies have introduced themselves recently into the brain fitness category. Each company tends to address a specific domain like memory or focus. So, to satisfy the cognitive and behavioral needs of an ADHD person, one would need to purchase many of these games.

As the original pioneer and developer back in the late 1980s,  I saw that there was a vast gap in the needs of the ADHD person and what was being delivered. By 1994, I developed Play Attention to teach sustained attention, visual tracking with attention (like watching a teacher move about the classroom), organizing and finishing tasks, memory, filtering out distractions, and motor skills. I even included behavioral shaping. Later this year we’ll deliver social skills, more working memory & short-term memory modules, and more.  We’ve received 3 patents for this pioneering effort.

Play Attention is a careful collaboration between you, the Play Attention software, and the Play Attention professional support staff. It’s provided us with a 92% satisfaction rating.

Of course, to get results, you need to use it. Next week I’ll address how Play Attention transcends being useful to being compelling.

Is ADHD Simply a Developmental Delay?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is conservatively estimated to affect anywhere between 5-7% of the world’s school-children. Is it possible that ADHD is the result of a brain that just develops slower than the brain of a child that doesn’t have ADHD?

Research has shown that the ADHD brain may develop differently than one without ADHD. However, no conclusive pathology (diseased or damaged location in the brain) exists; we don’t know what causes it.

What we do know: As a child’s brain develops, his experiences and environment help shape the connections in the brain. This development is also connected to genetic endowment. Thus, the brain develops dependent upon a complex interplay between nature (genetic endowment) and nurture (experience/environment). These connections form networks which help us process language, calculate math, feel, see, smell, think, and all else the brain is responsible to perform.

The part of the brain that is crucial to a child’s development is the cerebral cortex, the brain’s outer layer. The brain’s most complex functions like attention, consciousness, memory, and language are believed to be regulated in the cerebral cortex. As a child develops, gains experiences, and is subjected to his/her environment, the connections between the neurons (nerve cells in the brain) increase causing the cortex to thicken. The brain acts much like a muscle during adolescence; it’s a use it or lose it proposition. Connections which are frequently used are strengthened while unused connections are pruned away.

Researchers Philip Shaw, Judith Rapaport and others from the National Institute of Mental Health have proposed that ADHD may be the result of  lagging brain development resulting in an average 3 year delay. This theory is supported by earlier studies which found that children with ADHD have similar brain activity to slightly younger children without the condition.

Shaw and Rapaport used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to measure the brains of 447 children of different ages. They frequently noticed that the volume of the brain in the prefrontal cortex was thinner in ADHD children than other children of the same age. The cortex developed correctly over time, but the ADHD brain’s  development lagged behind about 3 years before it reached maturity. Among other things, the prefrontal cortex has the responsibility of governing attention, short-term memory,  and controlling inappropriate thoughts and actions. The researchers theorized that ADHD is a lack of control over these tasks, so it was logical to suggest that ADHD is a matter of developmental delay.

Significantly, Shaw and Rapaport found that the primary motor cortex developed faster in ADHD children. As its name implies, the motor cortex helps to plan and control movements. Shaw theorized that this might explain the restlessness, fidgeting and uncontrolled hyperactivity found in ADHD children.

This research raises more questions than it answers. Currently, the cause of the delay is unknown.  If ADHD is just a developmental delay, why do approximately 70% to 80% of children carry their ADHD traits into adulthood? This fact does not rule out Shaw’s conclusions, just that developmental delay may only be present in a minority of children labeled ADHD. Other children, the 70% to 80% previously mentioned, do carry their brain differences into adulthood.

Other research points to a set of genes responsible for the ADHD trait. If either genes and/or developmental delay are the cause, then what is one to do? The brain is an incredibly flexible organ. It is shaped by a variety of factors which means that parents, teachers, and other professionals can influence outcomes. Finding a program that addresses the needs of an ADHD child, helps shape behavior, and optimizes their potential is still the best practice.