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ADHD is a behavioural disorder characterised by inattentiveness, impulsivity and hyperactivity. It may occur without the hyperactive element and is then described as ADD.

Children with ADHD seem unable to sit still, finish tasks, concentrate or even notice what is going on around them. They may seem fine one day, while the next they are whirling round in frenzied activity. School reports may say, ‘Needs to concentrate and pay attention’. Or they may be daydreamers.

A child with an attention deficit has trouble maintaining attention for long and is easily distracted. A low stimulus environment can be very helpful. A hyperactive child has a constant need to be moving. They cannot control their impulses.

Children who have ADHD may be of normal to high intelligence, highly creative and intuitive, and physically able. Many well-known and successful names have experienced ADHD, such as John F Kennedy, Bill Gates and Simone Biles.

However, because children with ADHD find it difficult to concentrate, they frequently do not fulfil their true potential. This underachievement, and persistent criticism of their behaviour, can lead to low self-esteem and depression. They are often the class clown and may play truant.

The exact cause is unknown, but may have a genetic component. Most diagnoses in children occur between ages 6 and 12.

In every class of 30 children it is likely that there will be between one and two pupils with ADD/ADHD.

ADHD occurs in four times more boys than girls but increasing numbers of girls are being diagnosed as research reveals how differently it can present in females. 

An early diagnosis and treatment from a specialist can save a child the pain of inappropriate social skills and deflated confidence and is crucial to their chances of achieving a good quality of life.

It is important that home and school work together on a child's behaviour management programme. If rules and boundaries are similar there will be fewer opportunities for the child to get mixed messages. Putting a child on medication may help, but is a big step, so ensure you are happy with the decision.

Educational support, such as special help from a trained teacher outside the child’s class, plus extra help within the class, can enable a child to cope in mainstream school.

  • Acknowledge and accept your child’s strengths and needs, and design activities around their strengths to help their confidence levels.
  • Try to work out the times in the day when they work most productively, and ensure that a task begins and ends with an activity that they enjoy.
  • Bolster and maintain your child’s self-esteem, to help the ‘whole child’ develop.
  • School and the home must maintain close contact to ensure that your child receives consistent messages.
  • Don't personalise situations: it is the behaviour that you disapprove of, not the child.
  • Never discipline in anger: everyone says things in the heat of the moment that they later regret – you will say things that you don’t mean and, more importantly, sometimes that you can’t back up.

Further information

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