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Home > Research Articles > ADD affects adult population


Monday, March 25, 2002

ADD affects adult population (U-WIRE) MUNCIE, Ind. -- Despite the misconception that attention deficit disorder predominately affects children and young adults, a small percentage of the adult population also suffers from the unseen disability. According to the National Institutes of Health, between 3 and 5 percent of adults are affected by ADD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although it was once believed that symptoms of these neurological conditions lessen with age, studies now indicate people may not outgrow them. David McIntosh, director of Ball State University's school psychology clinic, said older adults suffering from such disorders may have been misdiagnosed as children. McIntosh said that, at the time these men and women were growing up, symptoms were not properly identified as ADD/ADHD. McIntosh also provides psychological and counseling services at Muncie's Comprehensive Mental Health Services, Inc. He said the individuals he sees are examined for different types of ADD/ADHD symptoms based on their age. "With college students, we look for attention and concentration problems and whether they have difficulties studying and staying on task," he said. "We also take note of whether or not they miss details in assignments, if they have poor organizational skills and if they avoid tasks that require sustained attention." Richard Harris, director of Disabled Student Development, said although the university has seen an increase in the amount of students with ADD/ADHD, the number of those asking for help has stabilized. "Based upon my experiences, I'd have to say there are quite a few students who aren't happy being labeled with such a disorder," he said. Harris also said young adults who have suffered from ADD/ADHD as children and adolescents may not want to deal with the symptoms now that they are students. "Some of them may not want to take their medications, and I think another part of it may be based on independence," Harris said. "Being away from parents can be an added incentive not to take their meds." Treatment for ADD/ADHD includes behavior-modification programs, counseling and common stimulant medications such as Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderal and Concerta. Harris said another popular method of treating the disorders is through coaching. The coaching method gives students who may be struggling with school a better chance to succeed through behavioral and academic mentoring, Harris said. Ball State currently classifies ADD/ADHD as a learning disability. Harris said that, although both disabilities are technically different, the Office of Disabled Student Development provides similar treatment and services for both conditions. "For practical purposes, and for what these students need help with educationally, it makes more sense to include ADD/ADHD as a form of a learning disability," Harris said. Of the 195 Ball State students currently enrolled with learning disabilities, 35 of them have ADD/ADHD, Harris said. According to Harris, his office helps students with both disabilities by accommodating them with benefits such as priority class scheduling. "We want these students to have balanced course loads, and we also try to provide them with a positive test-taking environment and possible extensions for assignments," Harris said. Harris explained that students with ADD/ADHD are often distracted by testing in a normal classroom. Also, because the condition is considered a neurological processing disorder, classwork may require a longer period of time to comprehend and complete. Educational psychology professor Jerell Cassady said individuals with ADD/ADHD may also have problems making decisions in social situations. In a recent study, Cassady conducted tests on hyperactive and non-hyperactive children to test their cognitive-processing skills. Cassady said that, because most hyperactive children have impulse problems, many experts believe having them stop and count to 10 before reacting in a situation may help them respond better. Instead of taking time out to count numbers in their heads, Cassady said it would instead help them to stop, review the situation and think of acceptable outcomes before they react. Cassady's tests with the children included having them read short stories and then evaluating the storyline of each piece. The non-hyperactive children provided positive outcomes to the negative situations in the stories, while those with ADD/ADHD had more of a negative response. When the hyperactive children were asked to retell the story after reviewing the piece, however, Cassady said he was amazed at the difference in results. Those who had formerly provided the researchers with pessimistic outcomes suddenly gave answers that were more optimistic. Cassady said he hopes the study will be a useful tool for parents and educators in helping children and students with ADD/ADHD succeed better. "By having these kids stop and reflect upon a situation before making a decision, they're provided with an opportunity to better reflect on their judgment," Cassady said. According to Cassady, this "positive options" processing strategy also works with adults who suffer from ADD/ADHD. "If adults with these disorders find themselves struggling in social situations, this could be a way of solving such a problem," he said. Regardless of whether someone with ADD/ADHD encounters problems in either academic or social settings, Harris said attention deficit disorders are not to be treated as a reason or excuse not to succeed. "Everyone must abide by the same standards in college," Harris said. "We don't look at those with learning disabilities and think, 'Well, they would have made it if they wouldn't have had a disability, so let's just give them a degree because they do.' "There's a bottom line that has to be met, and we just hope we can accommodate those with disabilities to be more successful at reaching it." Students with ADD/ADHD must complete a form verifying their diagnosis before the university will provide them with its special academic accommodations. "We have a system for determining what students legitimately suffer from ADD/ADHD," Harris said. "Because these disorders are physically nonapparent, they can often be difficult to diagnosis." Ball State does not provide diagnostic testing for ADD/ADHD, but Harris said he hopes more students with attention deficit disorders utilize the services his office can provide. "I can't compel a student to come in for help," he said. "But maybe if they give us a chance to see what we can do and explain how we operate, they might think about it." (C) 2002 Daily News via U-WIRE