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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The symptoms of ADHD can cause significant problems in your child's life, such as underachievement at school, poor social interaction with other children and adults, and problems with discipline. However, many people with ADHD learn to manage the challenging parts of their condition and use their strengths to go on and achieve well academically, have successful careers and have their own families and children. There are a number of famous people with ADHD who have very successful careers and who have made valuable contributions to modern society.
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.
If your child’s 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 alongside behavioural support strategies at home and at school, and will only help manage the symptoms of attention deficit, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
If you suspect your child has ADHD, speak to your school Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or read our referral guidelines.
If your child is on medication and you are concerned about significant weight loss, contact your ADHD Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) clinician straight away.
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.
‘Parenting Special Children’ is a resource that provides parenting support and groups such as ‘Time Out for ADHD’ across Berkshire as well as their Specialist Sleep Service. Call: 0118 9863532 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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