In essence, people with ADD have the ability to perform, but their lack of attention results in variable performance - sometimes excellent (if the subject is interesting) or sometimes poor (if the subject is less interesting). This leads to an eventual rising level of frustration with school, home, and sometimes sports. Please note that the lack of focus has little to do with effort - you can push them to perform as much as you want to, but if their neurotransmitters aren't working, they just can't pay attention all of the time.
Proper diagnosis and treatment gives them much more ability to succeed at the task at hand, and leads to a much more satisfying and happy life, similar to how glasses helps the performance of someone who is nearsighted and can't see the board at school. Diagnosis is accomplished with sophisticated testing, usually done by an experienced pediatric psychologist and helps eliminate the risk of "putting all these kids on medicine that don’t need it." Effective treatment requires a combination of understanding the disease itself, cooperation from the teachers and parents, and correcting the biochemical deficit with appropriate medications.
Parents tend to worry about potential side effects which include appetite suppression, weight loss, sleep problems, and changes in mood or personality. These are all possibilities, but can be managed effectively through proper medical treatment and follow-up.
Please see some of the attached links, documents and videos for more information and consult with your pediatrician with questions.
This page was authored by Lelon O. Edwards, M.D.
National Resource Center on ADHD
Children and Adults With ADD
Attention Deficit Disorder Association
ADD symptom quiz