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ADHD is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age and might become more obvious when your child's circumstances change, such as when they start school.

The symptoms, usually noticed before the age of six, are categorised into two types of behavioural problems:

  • Inattentiveness (not paying attention)
  • Hyperactivity and impulsiveness

Most people with ADHD have problems that fall into both these categories, but this isn't always the case. For example, some might have problems with inattentiveness, but not with hyperactivity or impulsiveness. This form of ADHD is also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD).

ADD can sometimes go unnoticed because the symptoms might be less obvious. It’s thought that girls more commonly present with ADD, which is why they’re less likely to get a diagnosis than boys.

Whilst children with ADHD will show the core symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness (or inattention only with ADD) there are a lot of other reasons why children and young people may present as hyperactive, inattentive or restless and impulsive. These include sensory processing and 'proprioception' difficulties (hypermobility and difficulties with posture), learning difficulties, anxiety, depression, and reaction to stressful or difficult life experiences.

Signs of inattentiveness

Children who show signs of inattentiveness might have a short attention span and be easily distracted. They might have difficulty organising themselves, they can make careless mistakes such as in their schoolwork, and they can appear forgetful and/or lose things. They might have difficulty sticking at tasks that are tedious or time-consuming, and constantly change tasks and activities. They might also have difficulty listening to or carrying out instructions.

Signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness

Children who are hyperactive can have difficulty sitting still and concentrating, especially in calm or quiet surroundings. They might want to move excessively, fidget constantly, talk more than necessary and find it difficult to wait and take their turn.

Impulsive behaviours can include acting without thinking, interrupting conversations and appearing to have little or no sense of danger.

Other conditions alongside ADHD

Although not always the case, some children might also have other problems or conditions alongside their ADHD. These include anxiety disorders, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder, depression, sleep problems, autistic spectrum condition (ASC), epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome and learning difficulties, such as dyslexia.

All children and young people with ADHD will benefit if there are behaviour support strategies put in place both at home and school to support their specific needs. For children with mild ADHD these strategies are likely to benefit them without the need for medication and/or therapeutic intervention. 

Support at home

If you’re a parent of a child or young person with ADHD, it’s important to seek support and advice to give you strategies to help support and manage your child’s ADHD.

  • One of the things you need to consider is what behaviours are part of your child or young person’s ADHD and not deliberate. This could be tapping fingers or feet, fidgeting, having difficulty getting to sleep or forgetting what you’ve asked them to do.
  • Learning what your child finds difficult is important as you’ll then be able to come up with strategies to help them. For example, asking them to get one thing at a time rather than giving a list of three or four things, and making sure you have their full attention when you’re giving an instruction.
  • Children and young people with ADHD can often lack self-esteem as they struggle with everyday tasks and might compare themselves to their peers. Give as much praise as possible, even if it’s for achieving something seemingly small, such as remembering to bring their lunch box home from school.
  • Try to ignore negative behaviours and behaviours that appear to be part of the ADHD unless you’re worried about risk. Wherever possible, talk with your child about the behaviours that are difficult, and work with them to come up with alternatives or talk about the consequences of negative behaviour.
  • Be very clear about boundaries within the household with agreed rewards and consequences.
  • If there are several behaviours you’d like to change, don’t try and do them all at once. Write a list and focus on one or two at a time. Sometimes working on small things first can help you both feel like you’ve made progress.
  • Bedtimes and falling asleep can be very difficult for young people with ADHD. It’s important to have a clear bedtime routine with at least an hour of no screens before bedtime. If your child is having difficulty getting to sleep and you’d like extra support and advice, Parenting Special Children have a sleep service with specialist sleep practitioners who can help you.

Support at school

Schools can be a very difficult environment for young people with ADHD as they’re required to do all the things that they find difficult. They have to sit still for long periods of time, concentrate on tasks that might not interest them, keep quiet and not call out in class, remember equipment and organise themselves between various activities. If their behaviour isn’t understood in the context of ADHD, this can lead to them being seen as disruptive, which can have an impact on their peer relationships, their learning and their self-esteem.

It's important to meet or talk with the school regularly. Talk about the support they’re putting in place for all aspects of the school day, such as break times, lessons and the beginning and end of the day when your child might need help organising themselves and remembering things.

The kind of things that might help are:

  • Checklists for remembering equipment
  • Seating close to the front of class and away from distractions
  • A home/school book for communicating changes and homework
  • Sensory or movement breaks. 

If you suspect your child has ADHD, speak to your school Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in the first instance. If you would like to find out about making a referral, please visit our ADHD service page.

If your child’s behaviour is becoming increasingly agitated, or they have an extreme mood change you’re unable to connect with a change in circumstances or other difficulties, contact your ADHD CAMHS clinician.

You should also contact your CAMHS clinician if your child is expressing a desire to harm themselves, or you have discovered that they have self-harmed or are putting themselves at significant risk.

If you’re concerned about immediate and significant risk due to self-harming behaviour, call Accident & Emergency (A&E) and/or take your child to your local A&E department.

If your child’s ADHD symptoms are moderate to severe, there is an option to explore medication to help them manage their symptoms. There are two main types of medication, stimulant medication and non-stimulant medication. The different types, and how they might suit your child, will be discussed with you. While medication can be effective at managing ADHD symptoms, it should be considered after other support has been put in place at school and home first and alongside this support. Medication will only help manage the symptoms of attention deficit, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

If your child is on medication and you are concerned about significant weight loss, contact your ADHD clinician straight away.

If you are looking for information on our ADHD assessments or considering a private assessment, please visit our ADHD Service page.

Visit our ADHD service pages for more information on our team. There's also lots of interesting information in our Blogs.

There is lots of support available in your area, see The Local Offer for more information on how to access it. 


Books that you may also find helpful include:

  • The Incredible Years by Carolyn Webster-Stratton
  • The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene
  • All Dogs have ADHD by Kathy Hoopman
  • A Birds Eye View of Life With ADD and ADHD by Chris Zeiglar and Alex Zeiglar
  • Mover Dreamers and Risk Takers: Unlocking the Power of ADHD by Kevin Roberts
  • The ADHD Handbook by Alison Munden and Jon Arcelus
  • ADHD Secrets of Success by Thom Hartman

Helpful resources

ADHD and autism support service (Bracknell, Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead)

External web link -

ADHD and autism support service (Newbury, Reading, Wokingham)

Autism Berkshire
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The national Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service
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ADHD Foundation

Helping people with their emotional wellbeing and self management
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The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Information about youth mental health and resources for professionals
External web link -

Family Lives

Parenting and family support
External web link -


Autism and ADHD support service in East Berkshire.
External web link -

Getting help now

Support available before, during and after an assessment
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Mind Ed

Learning and advice resource for anyone interested in or concerned about the mental health of children and teenagers
External web link -

Parenting Special Children

Workshops and courses for all parent/carers who have children of any age who are pre- and post- assessment for ADHD
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Young Minds

The UK's leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people
External web link -

Waiting times

Information on waiting times for ADHD and autism, March 2023
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