October was a month of awareness. Audiology Awareness, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness and National Physical Therapy Awareness Month to name a few.
Let's discuss how these two professions and the diagnosis of ADHD are linked. In recent history, it appears that more individuals, especially children, suffer from ADHD. Diagnoses are truly increasing. One reason may be the pressures on behaviors like executive functioning (the ability to keep track of time, planning and applying ideas, thoughts and principles that need to be analyzed) and decreased physical movement (like playing outdoors and exercise.) The definition of ADHD, according to the CDC, is based on a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation which includes but is not limited to a complete history and physical examination, observation at home and school, assessment tools given to and by both educators and parents and an audiological assessment.
Symptoms of ADHD are similar to symptoms of hearing loss. ADHD is not a disease or medical condition but rather a collection of symptoms with no known cause or physical test. Unlike hearing loss, ADHD is a non-specific psychiatric condition. It differs from a learning disability (LD) in the diagnosis and symptoms. LD is diagnosed through the use of a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, a complete history and physical examination, nonverbal IQ and standardized testing, language development, achievement tests and audiological assessment including auditory processing and reading skills/comprehension.
Children with ADHD often fail to pay attention to detail or make careless mistakes especially with homework, have difficulty tending to a task, do not appear to listen when spoken to, has difficulty organizing tasks and activities, is easily distracted, avoids/dislikes required mental effort tasks and appear to have an abundance of energy. Children with hearing loss are often confused for those who have been diagnosed LD or labeled ADHD due to their inattentiveness, poor academic performance, inappropriate responses to questions, not listening when spoken to, acting out and appearance of low self-esteem. They also have difficulties in reading and writing. If you are unable to hear language you can't sound out the words to read/write. If a child is unable to hear their teachers or parents, they will have difficulty focusing, paying attention and completing assignments — all of which might label them ADHD or LD.
In some cases, a child may have a combination of these conditions, but the ability to be accurately diagnosed is the key. No medication for ADHD will solve hearing loss or LD, whereas it is often necessary for the child to be placed on the correct medication to assist those with ADHD.
This is where physical therapy can also be of assistance. According to Josh Moody, MSPT at Dakota Physical Therapy, "regular regimented exercise program is needed to creatively use all the energy the child has. It is in a structured format to make them accountable and routinized." John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School said, "it may be a replacement for stimulants, but, for most complementary — something the child can do in addition to taking their medication thus helping increase attention and improve mood."
The key is being aware of the signs and symptoms. Know the people, educators, physicians, audiologists and physical therapists that can help you and your child with the right diagnosis and treatments.
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Patricia Larson Shields, AuD FAAA MA CCC-SP/L is a doctor of audiology with her degree from The School of Audiology of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in February, 2003. She has been in business in Mitchell, SD since September, 1991.