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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

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What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition affecting people’s behaviour.

The symptoms of ADHD are:

  • Inattention (Struggling with being able to concentrate) or
  • Hyperactivity (finding it difficult to stay still) and impulsivity (acting without thinking things through).

ADHD is not simply “bad behaviour.”

Diagnosing ADHD

For ADHD to be diagnosed the difficulties need to be:

  • Causing significant problems for the child.
  • Be there in more than one environment i.e. both at home and at school and for different types of lessons (so not just in maths or English).
  • Present for over six months and starting before the age of 12 years. Though it is possible for difficulties to go undiagnosed in early childhood.

A BBC bitesize series developed by our Consultant Paediatrician Dr Richard Lee-Kelland has some useful information explaining ADHD:

Resources and guidance

General advice and guidance

Most children will benefit from the following whether a child or young person has an ADHD diagnosis or not:

  1. Good sleep routine.
  2. Regular opportunities for activity and exercise throughout the day (60 minutes daily minimum.
  3. Healthy diet including ensuring child goes to school having had breakfast.
  4. Consistent boundaries and behavioural management.
  5. Clear routines at school and home.

What else might be causing the Attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity needs?

Not all children with attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity needs have ADHD.

Consider if your child has difficulties in any of these areas. All can cause difficulties in attention:

Sleep difficulties

Sleep difficulties are common in children. Not getting enough sleep can also cause ADHD-like symptoms. The best way to manage sleep is through good sleep hygiene and routines. Good sleep hygiene is essential. One You and Happy Maps give information for improving sleep according to age group.

Sensory differences

Inattention can be due to sensory distraction, hyperactivity or fidgetiness may be sensory seeking behaviour. You can find more information about sensory processing differences. 

Difficulties in focusing if not an area of interest

We all find it easier to concentrate on things we are interested in. For some people it can be almost impossible to engage in areas outside their interest. Consider whether there are other neurodiversity differences such as those seen in autism.

Difficulties in a particular subject only

Some children may struggle more in one subject more than others, this might be down to the circumstances of that class or may be caused by a specific learning difficulty in that area such as dyslexia or dyscalculia. If you think this is the case, we suggest discussing this with school in the first instance.

High anxiety levels, low mood, high stress levels (including past and present trauma)

It can be very difficult to concentrate when anxious, depressed or in a state of stress; and symptoms can sometimes look like ADHD. Our resources show different support for child mental health. 

Insufficient opportunities for exercise and activity

Children and Young People should exercise for a minimum of 60 minutes per day. There is good evidence that exercise is helpful for people with attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity needs whether they have ADHD or not. See Physical activity guidelines for children and young people for more information.

Cognitive differences

If a child has low academic attainment, global developmental delay or learning disability, their needs around attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity should be considered in the context of their functional age and not their chronological age.

Difficulties with behaviour

It is important to recognise that children showing oppositional, defiant, aggressive and violent behaviour, although often seen with ADHD, are not ADHD symptoms. ADHD medication is often not helpful in these situations and sometimes makes the problem worse.

Getting professional support is important in resolving these difficulties. Behavioural support is recommended at the educational setting as well as at home.

Young in school year

It is important to be aware that a child that is very young for the school year may appear to struggle more with attention compared to their older peers.

Specialised support for ADHD symptoms

Our ADHD leaflet for parents sets out support services available to families around ADHD.

Our Neurodevelopmental Nurses have produced a webinar about attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity difficulties to provide ideas to families in school to support these areas of concern.

The following services are available to support families develop different parenting and behaviour strategies. These are helpful for children whether they have ADHD or not and can be accessed for free, without referral from GP or school:

Parenting courses in Bristol

Parenting courses in South Gloucestershire

Parenting courses in North Somerset

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, please also see the local directory on mental health resources that are available to children.

We also have a directory of resources including details of local groups, resources and books that we recommend on ADHD.

School support

If you have concerns that your child might have ADHD we would advise that you talk to your school SENCo (Special Education Needs Co-ordinator) in the first instance. They should be able to discuss your concerns and ways they can help support your child at school

There is some advice on classroom approaches for ADHD that can be accessed by teachers and parents and we would recommend starting these interventions in the school environment prior to referral, for any children thought to be in difficulty with attention and/or hyperactivity difficulties.

Related information Pages

The following additional information may be of interest:

Man reading book with two children.

Information and signposting

We have a range of resources and information to support neurodiverse children on our advice and signposting page. 

Getting more help (more extensive goal-based help)

If you feel your child meets the criteria for an assessment, please see our ADHD referrals page for more information.

I am a clinician...

See the Remedy ADHD Care Pathway page for more details about making a referral.

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