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Differentiating between ADD, ADHD, and APD

Teri James Bellis, PhD

August 26, 2002

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Question

My son is 11 years old and has a hard time in school. His doctor has mentioned ADD. How do I tell the difference between ADD, ADHD and APD? Are there medicines that can help?

Answer

ADD and ADHD are the same disorder, ADHD is the currently accepted terminology for attention deficits. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can occur in three forms: one that is predominantly hyperactive, one that is predominantly inattentive, and one that is mixed. ADHD typically affects the ability to process across modalities, is diagnosed primarily by a checklist of symptoms, and typically responds to medication. In contrast, APD is viewed as an auditory input disorder that affects the way sound (including spoken language) is processed specifically, is diagnosed by a special battery of tests administered by an audiologist, and does not respond to medication. ADHD and APD can co-exist in the same child or adult, so it is important to separate the symptoms of the two. Recent research indicates that the primary complaints and symptoms of ADHD and APD, while overlapping somewhat, are actually quite different. For example, the two most common symptoms of ADHD are inattention and distractibility. Although these symptoms occur in APD, too, they are farther down the list of common complaints. The two most common symptoms of APD are difficulty hearing in background noise and difficulty following oral directions. Other behavioral symptoms pretty clearly separate ADHD and APD, as well. If ADHD is suspected, it is important that you have it ruled out or treated prior to considering testing for APD because attention deficits can affect performance on the tests of APD. Therefore, differentiating ADHD and APD requires the joint cooperation of physician/psychologist and audiologist.


Teri James Bellis, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of audiology at the University of South Dakota. She is the author of When the Brain Can't Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder (2002, Pocket Books), and has lectured and published widely in the field of auditory processing. A second edition of her 1996 book, Assessment and Management of CAPD in the Educational Setting, will be released this year from Singular/Delmar Learning.


Teri James Bellis, PhD

associate professor of audiology and Chair of the Department of Communication Disorders at The University of South Dakota

Teri James Bellis, Ph.D. - Author of When the Brain Can’t Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder (2002, Pocket Books), Dr. Bellis has been involved in the development, management, and implementation of audiologic and neurodiagnostic programs in clinical and educational settings for the past 19 years, including multimodality evoked potentials programs and central auditory processing service delivery programs. She received her doctorate in Audiology with specialty certification in Language and Cognition from Northwestern University. An internationally recognized expert in APD, she has lectured and published widely on the subject of central auditory processing assessment and treatment. Dr. Bellis is associate professor of audiology and Chair of the Department of Communication Disorders at The University of South Dakota. The second edition of her bestselling textbook: Assessment and Management of Central Auditory Processing Disorders in the Educational Setting: From Science to Practice is now available from Delmar Thomson Learning.


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