What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Symptoms of ADHD in children tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child’s circumstances change, such as when they start school. Most cases are diagnosed when children are 6 to 12 years old. However, many children go through phases where they’re restless or inattentive. This is often completely normal and doesn’t necessarily mean they have ADHD. However, you should consider raising your concerns with your child’s teacher, their school’s special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or GP if you think their behaviour may be different to most children their age.
The symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, but many adults who are diagnosed with the condition at a young age continue to experience problems.
It’s thought that around 2% to 5% of school-aged children may have ADHD.
Symptoms of ADHD in Children
The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be categorised into two types of behavioural problems:
- 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 people with the condition may 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 may be less obvious.
The symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers are well defined, and they’re usually noticeable before the age of six. They occur in more than one situation, such as at home and at school.
The main signs of each behavioural problem are detailed below.
The main signs of inattentiveness are:
- having a short attention span and being easily distracted
- making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork
- appearing forgetful or losing things
- being unable to stick at tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
- appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions
- constantly changing activity or task
- having difficulty organising tasks
Hyperactivity and impulsiveness
The main signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:
- being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
- constantly fidgeting
- being unable to concentrate on tasks
- excessive physical movement
- excessive talking
- being unable to wait their turn
- acting without thinking
- interrupting conversations
- little or no sense of danger
These symptoms can cause significant problems in a child’s life, such as underachievement at school, poor social interaction with other children and adults, and problems with discipline. Educational Psychologists can help the school and parents work with a child / young person who has been diagnosed with ADHD, or ADHD is suspected.
Note: Only a paediatrician can diagnose ADHD. However, paediatricians often welcome reports from Educational Psychologists to inform their investigations. An educational psychology report will also advise schools and parents on how to support a child who has concentration and attentional difficulties.