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ADD Is Over Diagnosed In Kids

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ADD is a term we're starting to hear more often these days. Chances are, you probably know someone who has Attention Deficit Disorder but, some physicians say the disorder isn't becoming more prevalent. Instead, children who don't have the ADD are being diagnosed and medicated anyway, and it's a problem that's growing.

With her book bag in tow, 16 year old Grace Fjellanger looks like your average teenager, and for the most part she is.  Only, she's faced with a struggle we can't see.

Grace Fjellanger says, “You have to pay extra attention and tell yourself to focus so you don't get side-tracked.”

Diagnosed with ADD, Grace says there are ups and downs. While she always has energy, she says it's easy to get distracted in class.  And, there's something else she's started to notice, ADD has become a popular term with some of her classmates.

“Some people use it as an excuse... like if they don't get their school work in on time they'll be like I have ADD, I can't do that because it's hard for me to focus. but, I don't think of it like that, I don't like to use it as an excuse,” says Fjellanger.

It's estimated only 3% of people actually have ADD, however 10 to 15% of kids in schools are medicated for the disorder.

Dr. Edward Mailloux, with Sanford Health says, “Some children are just physically hyperactive, that's not Attention Deficit Disorder, that's just being hyperactive.”

Dr. Edward Mailloux, a pediatrician who specializes in ADD, says most of the blame can be placed on doctors.
To diagnose ADD, doctors use two tools. One, one is a behavior rating scale which asks both parents and teachers a series of questions like: is the student forgetful, are they fidgety, and do they talk excessively? The second tool, is to get a detailed history of the child from the parent. Combining information from both tools results in the most accurate diagnosis, says Mailloux.

 Dr. Mailoux says, “The disconnect comes with us, the physicians, are over-medicating children without getting a real diagnosis, so that's a problem.”
He feels the best form of treatment begins with medication coupled with behavioral therapy. The end goal is to eventually wean kids off the meds.   If you use one without the other, Mailloux believes we're setting kids up for failure. 

And, for students like Grace Fjellanger, failure is not an option. She doesn't think of ADD as a disability, she's focused on the possibilities.

“It is a struggle, I think once I get into college I will have to apply myself a lot more. But, other than that, if I just keep that mindset it'll be no different than someone who doesn't have it,” says Fjellanger.

Dr. Mailloux says in many cases, he's conducting evaluations not because parents are concerned, but because teachers are the ones concerned.

ADD is also passed down through genetics, so if a child is diagnosed there is a good chance a parent may also have ADD.

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