Myth and ADHD Related Behaviors

Here are some typical myths that still exist regarding attention deficit hyperactivity disorder:

MYTH: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) doesn't really exist. It's simply the latest excuse for parents who don't discipline their children.

Scientific research tells us ADD is a biologically-based disorder that includes distractibility, impulsiveness, and sometimes, hyperactivity.

MYTH: Children with ADD are no different from their peers; all children have a hard time sitting still and paying attention.

The behavior of children with ADHD must differ greatly from their peers to be considered for the diagnosis of ADHD. The characteristics of ADD that appear between ages three and seven, include:

  • fidgeting

  • restlessness

  • difficulty remaining seated

  • being easily distracted

  • difficulty waiting their turn

  • blurting out answers

  • difficulty obeying instructions

  • difficulty paying attention

  • shifting from one uncompleted activity to another

  • difficulty playing quietly

  • talking excessively

  • interrupting

  • not listening

  • often losing things

  • not considering the consequences of their actions (1)

Poor Social Skills

It's also typical for children with add/adhd to exhibit poor social skills. Among the most common difficulties are:

  • Reciprocity: (waiting one's turn, non-dominating participation, appropriately entering an ongoing conversation)

  • Handling Negatives: (criticism, accepting a "no" to a request, responding to teasing, losing gracefully, disagreeing without criticizing)

  • Self Control: (handling peer pressure, resisting temptations)

  • Communication: (understanding and following directions, answering questions, appropriate conversation, being an alert listener, showing empathy)

  • Winning people over: understanding boundaries, honoring the boundaries of others, being courteous, doing favors, being thoughtful, lending, sharing, showing interest in others, showing gratitude, giving compliments. (2)

While these children often have poor social skills which alienate them from peers and make them appear distant to teachers, the good news is that they can learn these skills. However, they must be consciously taught and consciously learned. Children with ADHD don't pick them up along the way, as the average child normally does.

Mentoring from an older child, group or individual counseling, and parental instruction in very short sessions conducted in an encouraging atmosphere, are effective ways to teach social skills. Group counseling can be particularly effective as children can role play their skills while gaining feedback and encouragement. (3)

Other Issues to Be Aware Of

ADHD children are poor at deciphering other's feelings, as well as their own feelings. They don't effectively read body language or facial expressions. They may say something harsh or blunt and have no idea they've hurt someone's feelings. They may interrupt and monopolize conversations, and they may appear bossy. (4)

Teenagers with ADHD/ADD are more likely to get into trouble at school by misbehaving, being defiant, or skipping school. Dr. Russell Barkley found in studies that they have significant problems with "stubbornness, defiance, refusal to obey, temper tantrums, and verbal hostility toward others". (5)

"Many ADHD children are aggressive and noncompliant with the requests of others. Their impulsivity and overactivity may cause them to physically interfere with others, even when they have no intent to harm. The ADHD child's attentional difficulties, as well as other factors, may cause them to seem deaf to the commands of teachers and parents and lead to noncompliance with even the simplest request."(6)

Their failure to develop and maintain successful relationships results from an inability to: (7)

  1. express ideas and feelings

  2. understand and respond to the ideas and feelings of others

  3. evaluate the consequences of behavior before speaking or acting

  4. adapt to situations that are unfamiliar and unexpected

  5. recognize the effect of behavior on others

  6. change behavior to an appropriate response to adjust to situation

  7. generate alternative solutions to problem situations

  8. clueless behavior combined with a quick temper, poor impulse control and disruptive

  9. behavior in group situations leads to peer rejection.

The student's cognitive, behavioral, social and emotional age equivalents are approximately 2/3 the student's chronological age.(8)

Other typical behaviors include:

  • Constantly touching others

  • Difficulty reading or following written or verbal directions

  • Risk-taking behaviors

  • Grabbing things from other students

  • Talking to others during quiet activities

  • Drumming fingers, tapping pencil

  • Excessive running and climbing

  • Playing with objects

  • Shifting from one uncompleted activity to another

  • Throwing things

  • Is easily over-aroused by disorganization in classroom, loud noisy situations and large crowds

Some of the most difficult situations may occur in the hallways between classes, in the cafeteria, at P.E., and on the school bus. Students often complain about being teased, embarrassed and touched by other students in these unrestricted situations. Changes in routine increases stress and can produce overarousal, anger, and anxiety.

Not all children with ADHD will exhibit all the above symptoms and behaviors. However, it's not unusual to see a child exhibit many of these difficulties over a period of time.

From current research, behaviors appear to progressively deteriorate as the child grows older if appropriate intervention doesn't take place during the early years of school. These children need a team effort, both at home and at school, to reduce unwanted behaviors and replace them with positive behaviors. It isn't the parents' problem alone. Everyone must pull together to understand and work with this disorder.

The most important subject for these children is Social Skills, and unfortunately that's not a widely offered "course". Without social skills and the ability to get along within the larger community, the rest of a child's education is diminished. These children need help not punishment, training not isolation, encouragement not rejection. They have many unique talents to build upon if we just look for them. They tend to be creative, resourceful, intuitive, inventive, sensitive, artistic, and anxious to please. Let's work together to bring out the best in them.


(endnote 1) ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER: Beyond the Myths," developed by the Chesapeake Institute, Washington, D.C., as part of contract #HA92017001 from the Office of Special Education Programs, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, United States Department of Education. " The points of view expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Education." (This booklet is widely distributed by CH.A.D.D.)

(endnote 2) Taylor, John F. "Hyperactive/Attention Deficit Child", Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing 1990

(endnote 3) Taylor, John F. "Hyperactive/Attention Deficit Child

(endnote 4) Dendy, Chris A. Zeigler. "Teenagers with ADD, A Parents Guide", Bethesda, MD, Woodbine House, Inc., 1995

(endnote 5) Barkley, Russell A. "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment ", New York: Builford Press 1990

(endnote 6) New Mexico State Department of Education, "Attention Deficit Disorder Practices Manual", 1993

(endnote 7) Dornbush, Marilyn P., and Pruitt, Sheryl K. "Teaching the Tiger: A handbook for Individuals Involved in the Education of Students with Attention Deficit Disorders, Tourette Syndrome or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder". Duarte, CA: Hope Press 1995

(endnote 8) Barkley, Russell A. "New Ways of looking at ADHD", Lecture, Third Annual CH.A.D.D.Conference on Attention Deficit Disorder, Washington, D.C. 1990.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2007, June 8). Myth and ADHD Related Behaviors, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: February 14, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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