Several of the following conditions, problems, or disorders can have similar symptoms to those frequently misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD. This list includes the items presented in the book, as well as a number of other conditions brought to my attention by concerned workshop participants, readers, and email correspondents.

• Highly Kinesthetic and Tactile Learners

• Strong in bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, musical intelligences

• Auditory Dominant (likes to talk)

• Communications-Limited (needs time to process, retrieve and articulate information)

• Sensory Integration Dysfunction

• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

• Depression

• Bi-polar Disorder

• Asperger’s Syndrome

• Sleep Disorder

• Absence Seizures (Petit Mal Epilepsy)

• Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects

• Chronic middle ear infection, Sinusitis

• Visual or hearing problems; sensitivity to fluorescent lighting

• Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

• Lack of natural light

• Too-warm temperatures

• Thyroid problems

• Poor diet, food allergies, sensitivity to food additives

• Chemical, environmental sensitivities

• High extrovert; processes through social interactions, talking, writing

• Emotional problems

• Lack of clear guidelines or instructions

• Inadequate feedback

• Inadequate instructional stimulation (lack of novelty, relevance, choices or autonomy)

• Child abuse and neglect

• Reactive Attachment Disorder

• Oppositional-Defiant Disorders, Conduct Disorders

• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

• Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome

• Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD)

• Temperament-related patterns (oversensitivity to sounds or sights, difficulty sequencing movements or processing visual or auditory input, or a tendency to be distracted by details).

• Use of stimulants

• Deliberate misbehavior: Better to be seen as “bad” than “dumb”

The ever-increasing length of this list and growing number of kids being referred, diagnosed and treated as ADD or ADHD suggest the very real possibility that many, many children are being misdiagnosed, and that, in many cases, alternate and often less-invasive interventions are in order. I include this list as a plea to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms before automatically jumping to the assumption of ADD or ADHD. If you know of any other conditions that might be mistaken for ADD or ADHD, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Excerpted and adapted from Creating Emotionally Safe Schools, by Dr. Jane Bluestein © 2001, Health Communications,Inc, Deerfield Beach, FL.

This handout is also available in French.

Related links:

The Animal School
The “Ideal” Student: The students we were taught to teach
I’m Hyperactive, You’re Hyperactive: Implications for a diagnosis
Literacy: What’s Movement Got to Do with It?
Some Kids (Really Do) Study Better When…
Ways to Reach More Students
Working with Different Modality Strengths and Limitations: Characteristics and strategies

© 1998, 2001, 2012, Dr. Jane Bluestein

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2 thoughts on “Conditions with ADHD “Look-Alike” Symptoms

  1. […] way for a teacher to know. NO WAY. There are quite a few other conditions that look like ADD/ADHD. (Check out my friend, Dr. Jane Bluestein, on this topic) (And check out the interview we did on how ADD/ADHD students can […]

  2. […] Here’s her complete list […]

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