Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

      Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a diagnosis that is commonly given to adolescents with FAS/ARND. It is characterized by an adolescent’s inability to concentrate or pay attention. A higher level of physical activity is also seen in adolescents with ADHD than their age-mates. The difficulties in attending to information, along with the higher level of activity must cause problems in social, school, or work functioning in order for the adolescent to receive this diagnosis. Impulsivity, being fidgety, and impatience are among the commonly seen behaviors in adolescents with ADHD. Medication is often used and can be helpful, as is clear, concise and consistent structure. These problems must be present prior to the age of 7 for this to be considered an accurate diagnosis. A psychologist, psychiatrist, pediatrician, or other qualified health professional should make this diagnosis (LaDue, n.d., 197).

      The DSM-IV devotes significant space to this disorder (pp.78-85). They distinguish two main varieties of the disorder, one with hyperactivity (ADHD) and one without hyperactivity (ADD):

·     314.00  Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type [ADD]

·     314.01  Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type [ADHD]

·     314.01 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined type


The diagnostic criteria include 9 symptoms of “inattention,” 6 symptoms of “hyperactivity”, and 3 symptoms of “impulsivity.” The diagnosis of ADD requires the persistence of at least 6 of the 9 symptoms of inattention for at least 6 months. The diagnosis of ADHD requires at least 6 of the 9 symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. The diagnosis for the Combined Type is made if the requirements for both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity are met.


      In a large (n=415) clinical sample, 61% of the teenagers and 42% of the adults with FAS or FAE had attention deficit problems (Streissguth, Barr, Kogan, & Bookstein, 1996, 35). In addition, 70% of the teenagers and 68% of the adults had “repeated attention problems” (p.38).

·     A study of 145 FAS/ARND cases in Alaska (Colberg, 1997) showed that 28% had short attention span or attention deficit disorder (ADD).  Most of these 145 cases (83%) were Alaska Natives.  Multiple disabilities were common.