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Depicting ADHD
Exploring the Cause

What is ADHD?
ADHD is a prevalent psychiatric disorder affecting an estimated 9.5% of school-aged children in the U.S. Although ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, 65% of those diagnosed will continue to experience the symptoms of ADHD into adulthood.

ADHD is defined by three core systems:
• Inattention
• Hyperactivity
• Impulsivity 

These symptoms manifest differently in each person diagnosed, making an individualized treatment plan crucial to successful management.
All too often the causes and symptoms of ADHD are misperceived, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment. When depicting ADHD in your characters and storylines it is important to understand the reality that ADHD is not preventable and it is no one’s fault. The acceptance of an ADHD diagnosis can be difficult on any family and can present the opportunity for your characters to explore their family bonds and relationships. Consider the following suggestions when creating new storylines for your characters:

  • The public may place blame or make inaccurate assumptions regarding those diagnosed with ADHD. When portraying this condition, it is important to understand that neither the individual nor the parent is at fault, and neither “caused” the disorder. A person is born with ADHD, even if he or she is not diagnosed until later in life.
  • Research has shown that ADHD runs in families. When considering the genetic component of ADHD, it is important to resist depicting the “blame game” that often takes place in the doctor’s office, where parents argue over whose side of the family the condition came from. Instead, try to portray parents or relatives helping the child or adult to better manage ADHD using tools that they themselves have used, or perhaps that past generations of the family have used, to overcome some of the challenges associated with ADHD. Also, consider that these tips could help a family member with their own undiagnosed ADHD.
  • Children and adults who are diagnosed with ADHD may be stereotyped as unintelligent. In reality, most individuals with ADHD are smart and often considered intellectually gifted. Consider portraying a character who naturally excels past his or her peers in specific subjects or tasks, despite–or possibly as a result of their ADHD diagnosis.
Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD is present throughout one’s life regardless of when one is diagnosed. Refer to the chart below for more information about how the symptoms of ADHD can change over time:

Symptoms of ADHD:
Children (6-12 years)
Symptoms of ADHD:
Adolescents (13-17 years) 
Symptoms of ADHD: Adults
 Easily distracted

Homework poorly
careless errors, often
not completed

Often disruptive in class;
blurts out answers before
the question is completed

Often interrupts or intrudes
on others

Unwilling or unable to complete chores at home

Fails to wait turn in games

Often out of seat
Displays inner restlessness

Schoolwork disorganized,
shows poor follow-through

Hyperactivity is much less visible

Fails to work independently

Has difficulties in social settings with peers


Disorganized and fails to
plan ahead

Difficulty initiating and
completing projects

Shifts activities prematurely

Misjudges available time

Forgetful, loses things

Makes impulsive decisions

Has difficulties at work

Problems with social interaction

Having some of these symptoms of ADHD does not necessarily mean a person has ADHD. It is important to seek the opinion of a qualified health care professional, such as a physician or psychologist, who can properly diagnose ADHD.
       For more information visit:

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Portions of this newsletter adapted from

ADHD Pub Cover

Picture This: ADHD

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