Inattentive ADHD, Out in the Cold
It is not really the school's fault; there is precious little knowledge to be had about Inattentive ADHD. The current diagnostic criteria and treatment principals used for spotting and treating Inattentive ADHD are crude and poorly studied. Recently published information regarding this condition (1985 - 2010) tends to lump treatment options for Inattentive ADHD with the treatment options for Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD. Older information, pre-1985, tends to lump the diagnosis of this condition with the diagnosis of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo.
When my eldest son's second grade teacher, a teacher who adores children and who has taught successfully for over 45 years, gave us this piece of paper with a profile of a kid that she thought was just like our son, a sheet of paper that explained, in kind of vague terms, why he needed ADHD medication, I realized that the 'State of the Art' school, that my kid's attended, knew little about Inattentive ADHD. They knew that there were some kids that were inattentive, likely to be distracted, spaced out, somewhat impulsive and sluggish who needed to be evaluated for ADHD but that was about it.
I cannot tell you the number of parents of Predominantly Inattentive children, that I know, who have received, at their teacher conference, some ADHD like sheet of paper and have rejected the information in it outright. The information is these particular pieces of paper does not really describe a child with Inattentive ADHD, the materials more accurately describes something else. Sometimes the materials describe a child with Sluggish Cognitive Tempo who is also a bit impulsive. Sometimes the materials will describe a child who is impulsive and inattentive but not sluggish or a child that is hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive.
The worse schools give no materials at all and do not even notice your inattentive child. These schools are happy to have a spaced out, quiet child sitting in the classroom. If that child manages to test in the average range for reading and math he will coast through his school life totally under the radar and whatever opportunity this child might have had to maybe learn something in school will be lost.
Not all people who are Predominantly Inattentive are also predominantly sluggish. Most people with Inattentive ADHD are neither impulsive nor hyperactive. Many of us are not sluggish at all and some of us are only a bit sluggish and on a sluggish to hyperactive bell curve would fall in the 'normally active' range. Most of us with inattentive ADHD are no more impulsive than would be considered normal. If you happen to have a child, like I have and a child like I was as a kid, that is Predominantly Inattentive and is NOT impulsive or predominantly Sluggish, these generic ADHD descriptive materials will not resonate with you and your child will likely not get any help.
After I got the ADHD materials from my son's teacher, I started thinking about the lack of information available about Inattentive ADHD and I started thinking that I wanted to learn more about the materials available for teachers. There is very little available. Teachers need better material and need to be educated regarding the differences between inattentive ADHD and the other types of ADHD. They need to know that NOT all children with Predominantly Inattentive ADHD are predominantly sluggish. Teachers are often the first step in the process of getting help for a person with Inattentive ADHD but teachers need better resources than are currently available.
If the American Psychiatric Association (APA) gives Inattentive ADHD a category of their own in the DSM V (The manual that mental health providers use for diagnosing), people with Predominantly Inattentive ADHD may finally travel out of the cold woods and into a warm classroom. Teachers, like my son's second grade teacher, will have better resources to distribute to parents of children with Inattentive ADHD and these same teachers will be better able to guide parents towards community resources where the parent can find the further help that they will need.
I am hoping, for the sake of the many people with Inattentive ADHD who have gone through life thought of as lazy, mentally slow and incompetent that the APA does not bury this condition in with the Hyperactive or Impulsive types of ADHD as it did in the DSM IV. We know, from our current experience that this approach has left most ADHD-PI kids and their families all alone, out in the cold, searching for answers.