Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity that is present before the age of 7 years. Inattention may interfere with social, academic, or occupational performance. In childhood, this often manifests in difficulty completing school-related tasks, messy schoolwork, careless errors, and difficulty following directions. Adults with ADHD frequently have difficulty organizing and completing tasks. High levels of distractibility and difficulty focusing and maintaining concentration are evident in both children and adults. Hyperactivity often involves excessive fidgetiness or squirming. Difficulty remaining seating, frequent running and climbing, and excessive talking are often noted. In addition to inattention and hyperactivity, impulsivity may also be present in the form of frequent intrusion of others’ conversations and difficulty delaying responses (e.g., blurting out answers in class). Ability to socialize and obtain/maintain friendships are often hindered as a result.
Learning Disorders are diagnosed when an individual has significant difficulty learning and using academic skills in a particular area is significantly below what is expected for the individual’s age. Learning Disorders may involve one or a combination of the following: impairment in reading, impairment in written expression, and/or impairment in mathematics. These learning problems significantly interfere with academic achievement, occupational functioning, or activities of daily living that involve these skills.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by persistent deficits in areas of communication skills and social interaction which may include a lack of social-emotional reciprocity, non-verbal communication deficits (e.g., maintaining eye contact, awkward gestures or body language), difficulty in maintaining interpersonal relationships and understanding social cues. Individuals with ASD also engage in repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior and activities that may include preoccupation with parts of objects, repetitive motor behaviors (e.g., flapping, twisting), and inflexible adherence to nonfunctional routines and rituals. Inflexibility and rigid thinking patterns are also common. Some individuals with ASD have sensory integration issues where they may be very sensitive to certain sounds, textures, etc. ASD can range in severity, and severity indicators are classified by level of intellectual functioning and language impairment. Mild ASD (e.g., absent or mild intellectual and language impairment) was previously diagnosed as Asperger’s Disorder.
Intellectual Disability is characterized by deficits in intellectual functioning that can range from mild to profound. It is also accompanied by significant impairments in adaptive functioning (e.g., communication, self-care, social/interpersonal skills, home-living, functional academic skills). For a diagnosis of intellectual disability, the onset of intellectual and adaptive deficits occurs in the developmental period (early childhood).