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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Explained


What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition which affects those parts of the brain which control attention, impulses and concentration (a neurobiological condition). It is thought that boys are more likely to be affected than girls. It is thought to affect between 3 and 7% of children at school.

The best description for ADHD is that a child who suffers from this condition shows disruptive behaviours, which cannot be explained by any other psychiatric condition and are not in keeping with those of the same-aged people with similar intelligence and development. These behaviours are usually first noticed in early childhood, and they are more extreme than simple “misbehaving”. Children with ADHD have difficulty focussing their attention to complete a specific task. Additionally they can be hyperactive and impulsive and can suffer from mood swings and “social clumsiness”.

What causes ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD is unknown, but scientific research suggests the cause could be largely genetic combined with some other factors. It is thought that a mother's use of cigarettes, alcohol or drugs during pregnancy may increase the risk of ADHD. A child is 70 percent more likely to have ADHD if a parent has ADHD.

What are the effects of ADHD?
Children with ADHD tend to display the following behaviours: -

  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Inattention
  • Social clumsiness
  • Poor coordination
  • Disorganisation
  • Mood swings
  • Specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, language problems, difficulties with handwriting/written work

What are the implications for the school?

Children who have ADHD tend to be very energetic, talkative, and outgoing. In contrast, children with ADD tend to be lethargic, less likely to talk in class, and introverted.

Although they may be bright intellectually, many children with ADD or ADHD lag behind their peers developmentally by as much as 30 percent and as a result they may seem immature or irresponsible. They will frequently forget things, including their homework, are more likely to say things they shouldn't or act impulsively before thinking, and the quality and amount of their work will fluctuate from day to day.

Research has shown that medication can help most children with ADD and ADHD improve their performance at home and school. Medications commonly used to treat attention deficits such as Concerta or Ritalin help the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin work properly. When medication is effective, attention and concentration improves, hyperactivity and impulsivity decrease and compliance increases.

Tips for Teachers and Teaching Assistants

1. Make sure you provide structure and clear expectations.

2. Seat the child away from doors and windows in order to minimise distractions.

3. Divide big tasks into smaller ones and allow the child frequent breaks.

4. Develop a “secret language” with the child with ADD/ADHD. Use discreet gestures or words you have previously agreed upon to let the child know they are interrupting. Praise the child for interruption-free conversations.

5.Make sure a written behavior plan is near the student. You can even tape it to the wall or the child’s desk.

6. Write the schedule for the day on the board or on a piece of paper and cross off each item as it is completed. Children with impulse problems may gain a sense of control and feel calmer when they know what to expect.

7. Provide a stress ball, small toy, or other object for the child to squeeze or play with discreetly at his or her seat.

8.Make sure a child with ADD/ADHD never misses break time or P.E.

Where can I get further information about ADHD?
ADD and ADHD (