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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Outgrowing ADD

09/28/2000

Question:

I want to know how long ADD lasts. I am 16 going on 17 in April and I was diagnoised with ADD in 1990. I had to repeat first grade and I took Ritalin at breakfast and lunch until I was in 6th grade. I stopped taking my medicine in my 7th grade year, and then I started again during that year and stopped when I went into 8th grade. My Mom said I experienced low confidence and was easily distracted. Also I did not want to do homework or chores and if I did them I would not finish them all the way. I also had problems tackling new tasks. I still have a few of those symptoms, like getting easily distracted and not completing my homework. I also wait to the last minute to get my work done. I am a 10th grader and I was wondering what I could do other than taking medicine. Last year I had a B-C grade average and I think my average will be more or less the same. I am going to the Learning Center to help me in getting better focused, and to help bring me up to speed in areas of english and math. I was wondering if I will out grow being ADD. Also many years from now when I have children could I possibly pass this on to them?

Thank you for your time.

ADD in 10th Grade

Answer:

It sounds like you are really thinking a lot about the best and healthiest ways to get your life together, which is great! Unfortunately, I can’t give many answers about you in specific---I don’t know enough about you. Your physician may be able to help you with that part. I can, however, give you some general information about ADD and growing older. There are a number of different possible symptoms of ADD, many of which improve with the natural developmental processes of growing older. For instance, most of us develop more patience as we age, develop “tricks” or techniques for remembering things that are important to us, and “learn” to get a good night’s sleep or drink only small amounts or little alcohol so that we can avaoid poor sleep. Thus, aging can help with certain aspects of ADD, depending on which ADD symptoms are most predominant and how extreme they are. We know little about which ADD symptoms one is likely to “grow out of” and which will always remain. I see many adults each week that have ADD. I also see many adolescents and, although it is common for them to get things like behavioral problems or time management under better control as they age, I do not see many people who do fine going off medication. Of course, some that go off medications may just not return for follow up so I may not be aware of those who do so and do well. I am hoping that the studies now underway that began several years ago, sponsored by the National Institute of Health, tell us more over the next decade. Going to an education specialist for difficult subjects is one excellent way to help yourself out. Many individuals with ADD qualify for Independent Education Plans (see the NetWellness ADD question answered 8/13/00 regarding school support). The idea is, no one should be set up to fail. Find out from the educational center you are attending or your school about qualifying for an IEP. Those who qualify can get accommodations such as extended test taking time. And keep in mind that it is not, in any way, “cheating”---it is one of the few ways we have to potentially give everyone a level playing field in an educational system that often has one teacher for 25-30 students. Finally, yes, you can pass ADD down to your children. Thankfully, you can also pass down your resourcefulness, creativity, warmth, love, intellect and perseverance. Every one of us has personal traits or family traits that we hope our children do not acquire. At least, if one or more of your children have ADD, s/he will likely be coming into a world that has a better understanding of ADD’s limitations as well as ADD’s correlations with higher IQs and creativity. Best of luck to you. And, if you decide medication should be tried again, find a physician you are really comfortable with and feel you can trust---it could take you a long way.

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Response by:

Susan Louisa Montauk, MD
Formerly Professor of Family Medicine
University of Cincinnati