A basic diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) by your pediatrician, psychiatrist or counselor often requires a much more detailed explanation to truly understand the diagnosis and how it affects your student. ADHD is a behavioral disorder, and is one of the most common childhood disorders. Symptoms can most definitely follow a student into adulthood, causing maladaptive behaviors if not treated. Children with ADHD are often creative, adaptive, energetic, quick thinkers. They also commonly have some areas of challenge – for example; distractions are hard to ignore, difficulty maintaining attention, difficulty staying organized and struggles waiting for their turn, are common.
When it comes to assessing for ADHD, my goal is to gather information on a student to create an extensive profile of their strengths and struggles, allowing me to create an individualized, well-rounded support plan. In addition to information gathered during counseling sessions, assessment tools like the AMEN ADHD Scale may be utilized to measure intensity of reported ADHD symptoms and break them into seven categories. I like using the AMEN scale as an assessment tool, but also as a way to explain and describe ADHD to parents, teachers and even the student being assessed. Many people think of ADHD as a hyperactive disorder. They think of kids who can’t sit still, who are constantly on the move. The AMEN scale helps me as a therapist describe how ADHD can affect several areas of behavior, and how these behaviors can tie into struggles in the classroom. The AMEN scale identifies 7 categories of ADHD, dividing symptomology into organized, easy to understand categories.
While I use multiple assessment tools and observation to develop an idea of whether or not a student’s behaviors warrant an ADHD diagnosis, I find that when we can discuss behaviors specific to each category, it helps students really see where their strengths are, and where we can implement some strategies to support their area’s of struggle.
I’ve broken up the categories here:
Type 1: Classic ADD/ADHD: While the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is no longer widely used in the mental health community due to the diagnostic criteria being incorporated into the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, the AMEN scale uses this term to describe primary symptoms of ADHD; inattention, distractibility and disorganization. This subtype includes hyperactive behaviors, restlessness and impulsive actions.
Type 2: Inattentive: This type, includes AMENs primary symptoms, inattentiveness, distractibility and disorganization and adds low energy, motivation, spacey demeanor or attitude.
Type 3: Over-Focused: In addition to the primary symptoms, behaviors under this subcategory include: inflexibility, trouble changing from one task to another, persistently negative thought pattern, excessive worries especially about things that are not controllable, and a strong need for routines.
Type 4: Temporal Lobe: This subtype includes a heavy focus on the temporal lobe of our brain, which is heavily involved in turning delivered sensory input into meaningful information to then be stored via visual memory, comprehension of language and association with emotions. Basically, the temporal lobe is like a secretary, or assistant, who files things in the correct places, makes sense of short hand written messages and making sure that needed information gets into a place where it will not be lost. Deficits in this area include periods of anxiety, dark thoughts, memory problems, often quick to anger and struggles with reading.
Type 5: Limbic: The limbic system supports a variety of functions in our brain, including emotional control, behavior, motivation, long term memory and our sense of smell. Symptomology associated with elevated scores on the limbic scale of this assessment include mild sadness, a negative outlook, low energy, low self-esteem, irritability, social problems and perhaps isolation and irregular sleep patterns.
Type 6: Ring of Fire: The Ring of Fire is a term unique to the AMEN rating scale, it describes the intense ring of over activity often observed in the EEG of an individual with ADHD. Usually the intensity of activity is greatly worsened by stimulant medications. Symptoms under this subtype include moodiness, anger outbursts, rapid thought patterns, excessive talking, and sensitivity to sound and light.
Type 7: Anxious: Primary symptoms of ADHD are present in this subtype. In addition, nervousness, social anxiety, muscle tension and anxiety during test taking situation are also present. Physical stress symptoms may also occur; headaches, and stomach problems.
Amen, D. (2014, February 10). ADD / ADHD – Amen Clinics. Retrieved February 4, 2015, from http://www.amenclinics.com/conditions/adhd-add/