Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a controversial condition typically associated with hyperactive or inattentive children. Because of its prevalence in the classroom, diagnosis and treatment often brings parents and children into conflict with school bureaucracies and state social agencies, either of which can be less than helpful. The best known drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is ritalin, itself an extremely controversial medicine that may be better known than ADHD itself.
It is estimated that 3-5% of children-approximately two million in the United States-have Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Thus, at least one child afflicted with this condition is likely to be found in a classroom of 25 to 30 students. Yet one researcher believes as many as 80% of the AD/HD cases may be undiagnosed. The condition often persists into adulthood.
ADHD was first described in 1845 by Dr. Heinrich Hoffman, a physician who wrote books on medicine and psychiatry and a poet who penned "The Story of Fidgety Philip," an accurate description of a little boy who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In 1902, Sir George F. Still published a series of lectures to the Royal College of Physicians in England in which he described a group of impulsive children with significant behavioral problems, caused by a genetic dysfunction, rather than poor child rearing. Since then, thousands of scientific papers on ADHD have been published.
Although there was long no diagnostic test for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the 1998 National Institute of Health Consensus Statement concludes, "There is evidence supporting the validity of the disorder." However, the first biological diagnosis was announced in January 2005.