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Executive Functioning is at the Heart of an ADHD Diagnosis

How Parents/Educators Can Support Students with ADHD

By Jane N. Hannah, Ed.D

Executive Functioning is at the Heart of an ADHD DiagnosisOver summer break, I was in a hospital elevator carrying a new book on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and a person on the elevator inquired about the book. She commented that her son was just diagnosed with ADHD, which sparked a conversation between the two of us.

This scenario is not uncommon. There is great interest among parents to learn as much as they can about ADHD, especially if their child is one of the 9% of school-age children who is diagnosed with the condition. You may also be among those who have heard comments, such as “ADHD is a made-up condition” or that “there was no such thing as ADHD when I was a child.” In reality, ADHD has been observed and diagnosed for over 100 years; however, it has been called by many different names. As early as 1940, it was referred to as Minimal Brain Syndrome, in 1957 it was called Hyperkinetic Impulse Disorder, and in 1994, it was changed to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Even now, professionals are considering a new model for ADHD.

Throughout most of these 100 years, the emphasis has focused primarily on the behavior problems associated with ADHD. Over the last few years, a new understanding of ADHD has gained attention.

Thomas E. Brown, Associate Clinical Professor at Yale University School of Medicine, reports that recent scientific research is pointing to the belief that ADHD is a “developmental impairment of the brain’s self-management system, its executive functions” (Brown, 2013). Dr. Brown goes on to add that this new understanding is not as much about behavior but more about chronic difficulties with the executive functions of the brain. This new model is not yet refined, but many professionals in the field believe it holds merit.

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