What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
ADHD or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a condition that appears in early childhood and is defined by a cluster of behaviours causing a child to be inattentive, impulsive or hyperactive.
ADHD can make it difficult for children to inhibit or moderate their responses to stimulus, leading to spontaneous and unfiltered behaviours affecting speech, movement and attentiveness.
If untreated, the condition can lead to delays in a child's learning, development and social relationships. ADHD symptoms are classified as one of three groups; inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive. Below are descriptions of these classifications and how they may affect a child with ADHD.
How would I know if my child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
ADHD is often identified and diagnosed in early childhood, when many children experience phases of being particularly impulsive, inattentive or hyperactive. However, this can be part of normal development and does not necessarily indicate ADHD. Below are some of the most common signs of the condition that we would recommend warrant further investigation. As the condition is generally diagnosed within the 3 key areas of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, we have listed the possible symptoms within these categories:
Inattention: this is where a child with ADD or ADHD finds it difficult to focus and pay attention to anything that they are not immediately engaged in. They often 'tune out' and their attention will drift.
- Little attention to detail or instruction
- Rushes activities and frequently makes mistakes
- Easily distracted
- Difficulty following instructions
- Poor memory for recent conversations, instructions or events
- Difficulty getting organised to leave the house, preparing for school or getting dressed
- Frequently loses items such as clothes, school equipment or toys
Hyperactivity: this is the most common associated symptom of ADHD and children with the condition are often 'on the go'. Even when they are sitting or standing still, children with ADHD will often have a leg tapping, arm shaking or fingers drumming.
- Fidget frequently and have difficulty sitting still
- Struggle to remain seated in a classroom or at the meal table
- Talk excessively
- Overly energetic or always ‘on the go’
- Find it difficult to relax or play quietly
Impulsivity: this can be one of the most socially challenging symptoms of ADHD causing an inability to moderate their physical and verbal responses.
- Often struggle with taking turns and sharing
- Will regularly shout out in class, talk over people or interrupt others
- Difficulty controlling emotions such as sadness or anger and may be prone to angry outbursts
How can occupational therapy help a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Our team of expert paediatric occupational therapists are skilled at working with children with ADHD/ADD. We recognise that the condition affects each young person and family differently and therefore aim to provide a consultative approach to help them manage everyday life.
Management strategies for home or school may be:
- Sleep training strategies - to reduce night time activity and waking
- Social stories - to help teach the child how to act in certain situations such as initiating social communication with class mates
- Sensory processing - to identify what the difficulties are and their impact on daily life, then provide strategies and treatment as needed. Sensory processing for children with ADHD is a very successful treatment method and can assist a child to remain focused for increased periods of time
- Visual cues - to support routines, we look at breaking the tasks down into small, achievable activities to help the child remain focused and develop independence
- Routines - providing ideas to give routine and structure to manage daily life and cope with changes when they occur.
- Physical skills -to develop strength and coordination, enabling a child to participate in activities with their peers.
- Educating school or nursery staff - on how to help a child with ADHD engage with the curriculum within their own parameters.
If you would like to learn more about how we as occupational therapists can help overcome common difficulties associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, you will find some useful links at the bottom of this page.