Dyslexia North West & Red Rose School

Attention Deficit Disorders

Children on the specific learning difficulties continuum who have associated attention and behaviour problems are often referred to as Attention Deficit Disordered. However, a true diagnosis of this disorder should only be made if the behaviours are both chronic and pervasive. Chronic means that the behaviours have been there throughout the child's life and pervasive means that the behaviours are present throughout the child's day and across situations.

Children experiencing ADD commonly present with difficulty in one or more of four broad areas:

  • Inattention & Distractibility
  • Over arousal
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty delaying gratification

Inattention & Distractibility

ADD children may have difficulty remaining on task and focusing attention in comparison to other children of similar chronological age. They additionally have difficulty screening out distracting stimuli in their environment as they attempt to attend to task. This is a dual problem which combines to affect the child's ability to remain on task.

Over arousal

ADD children may show signs of being excessively restless, overactive and easily aroused. Their difficulty controlling bodily movements is especially noted in situations in which they require to stay put or still for long periods of time. Additionally, the extremes of their emotions, as well as the quickness with which they go to those extremes, is greater and more intense in comparison to their same age peers. Whether happy or sad, everyone around them is well aware of their presence and current feelings. As one parent has so aptly put it, these children 'wear their emotions on their shirt sleeve'.


ADD children may have difficulty thinking before they act. They have trouble weighing the consequences of their actions in planning future actions and do not reasonably consider the consequences of their behaviour. They may have difficulty following rule governed behaviour. Although they may know the rule and be able to explain it to you, in their environment they are unable to control their actions and think before they act.

Difficulty delaying gratification

ADD children may have difficulty working towards a long term goal. They may want what they want right away in relation to the amount of delay we would expect from children of similar chronological age. ADD children may require brief repeated payoffs as they attempt to work towards a long-term goal.

Intervention Strategies

  • Behaviour modification strategies Medical
  • Medical
    • Ritalin is the most commonly used medication in treating attention difficulties but Cylert, Dexedrine, Tofranil and Norpramine have also proved successful over the past several years.
    • If medication is used it must be carefully used in conjunction with other intervention strategies. The medication must also be carefully monitored by parents, teachers, the medical profession and psychologist in terms of its effectiveness.

Medication Side Effects

When medication is used, side effects sometimes occur. If any of the side effects listed below is observed, indicate which one on a check list and note its severity.

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Fitful sleeping
  • Difficulty awakening
  • Nightmares
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Tics or involuntary motor movements
  • Dizziness
  • Rashes
  • Bedwetting
  • Irritability
  • Feeling anxious
  • Restlessness
  • Tenseness
  • Heart racing
  • Socially withdrawn
  • Sadness
  • other

'Persons identified as having a Specific Learning Difficulty or Difficulties all show different intellectual and emotional profiles, strengths and weaknesses, learning styles and life experiences. Within this context, Specific Learning Difficulties can be identified as distinctive, patterns of difficulties, relating to the processing of information, within a continuum from very mild to severe, which may result in restrictions in literacy, language, number, motor function and organisational skills.'
(Lancashire Centre for Specific Learning Difficulties, 1997)