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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder have difficulties with: inattention (concentrating on tasks, finishing tasks and being organised), hyperactivity (excessive and inappropriate moving or talking), and/or impulsivity (acting hastily in the moment without considering possible harmful consequences). Many children may exhibit these behaviours at some point in their lives. However, children with ADHD persistently display a range of these challenging behaviours in multiple settings, which greatly impacts their daily lives.

ADHD is common; approximately 5 % of children have ADHD. ADHD is twice as common in boys. However, girls are more likely than boys to present with the inattentive type of ADHD. While we do not know the cause of ADHD, we know that it is not the result of poor parenting. ADHD is neurobiological in origin; this means that their brains are wired differently.

ADHD is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder. While the hyperactivity symptoms often reduce in late adolescence, the inattention and impulsivity symptoms usually remain into adulthood. However, with appropriate intervention, children with ADHD can gain skills that allow them to manage their ADHD and live healthy and successful lives.

Characteristics of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

For a child to be diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, s/he has to exhibit very challenging behaviours that have persistently occurred for six months or longer, are happening in more than one setting (eg. home, school, childcare, etc.), are interfering with their social and academic activities, and started before 12 years of age.

There are three different ADHD diagnoses, ADHD (inattentive type), ADHD (hyperactivity/impulsivity type) and ADHD (combined type). Children with ADHD (inattentive type) display six or more inattentive behaviours, while children with ADHD (hyperactivity/impulsivity type) display six or more hyperactive/impulsive behaviours. Children who meet the criteria for both the inattentive type and the hyperactivity/impulsivity type are diagnosed with ADHD (combined type).

Inattentive behaviours

  • Has trouble paying attention to detail or makes careless mistakes
  • Has difficulty maintaining attention
  • Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Doesn’t follow through on instructions (often starts, but doesn’t finish schoolwork or chores)
  • Has difficulty organising tasks and activities (eg. Has trouble keeping belongings in order, has messy or disorganised work or has poor time management skills)
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks that require ongoing mental effort (such as homework, schoolwork, etc.)
  • Loses things that are needed to complete tasks (eg. school materials, homework, etc.)
  • Forgetful in daily activities (eg. chores, school routines, etc.)

Hyperactivity/impulsivity behaviours

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in his/her seat
  • Leaves seat in inappropriate situations (eg. classroom chair, bus seat, etc.)
  • Excessively runs around or climbs in inappropriate situations
  • Has trouble quietly engaging in activities
  • Acts as if s/he is ‘on the go’ or ‘driven by a motor’
  • Excessively talks
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others

Concerns for children with Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder have different learning needs from those of their peers. In order to meet their needs, they must be identified as having ADHD and provided with appropriate behavioural intervention. Schools should use individualised learning plans to ensure that the specific learning needs of children with ADHD are met and provide provisions to help children with ADHD to succeed in the classroom (eg. using predictable routines, using a rewards system and removing distractions).

Children with ADHD whose needs are not being met can experience a range of school-based concerns, including: low self-esteem (being called lazy, irresponsible and uncooperative, believing that they are unable to meet expectations and feeling embarrassed because they can’t act like their peers and frequently being in trouble for their behaviours), social isolation (feeling different from their peers, being teased and being excluded by their peers), disengaging with school (refusing to engage in learning activities and avoiding attending school) and reduced school performance (exhibiting a gap between their intellectual potential and their academic output).

Children may experience the following emotional concerns in relation to their ADHD that require help from a psychologist: low self-esteem, anger (often as a result of experiencing chronic frustration about their environment that they turn on others), stress/anxiety (experience excessive worry and anticipate failure) and depression (have negative thoughts about themselves and the world and find it difficult to imagine anything possible in the future).

Children with ADHD are also more likely than children without ADHD to have additional behavioural concerns, such as oppositional defiance disorder and conduct disorder.

Assessment

Early identification and intervention have been shown to provide the best outcomes for children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. If you believe that your child may have ADHD, please visit our assessment page to learn more about the assessments we offer or contact us to schedule an appointment for an assessment.

Treatment

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, our evidence-based, behavioural intervention program can help your child. The purpose of our behavioural intervention program is to shift children’s behaviour while ensuring that their underlying needs are met. We use behavioural intervention therapy to teach you skills that enable you to recognise your children’s behaviours, understand the reasons for their behaviours and provide you with strategies to meet their underlying needs in alternative ways. This intervention may also include:

  • Parenting skills training
  • Emotional regulation
  • Problem solving
  • Social skills training

For more detailed information on what to expect in your sessions with us, please visit our Appointments page. If you would like help in understanding and managing your child’s ADHD, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

We offer personalised, evidence-based treatments that can help your child if s/he is experiencing low self-esteem, anger, stress/anxiety or depression as a result of their experiences with ADHD. Please visit our treatment page for further information or contact us to schedule an appointment.

We can help your child if s/he has ADHD and is experiencing negative outcomes at school by providing your school with practical recommendations or by visiting your child’s school and meeting their school professionals. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.