Supporting children and young people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that can cause difficulties in paying attention, sitting still, and general impulses. People with ADHD can have trouble staying concentrated, staying quiet, or thinking before they act.
Signs that your child may be affected by ADHD
ADHD is a behavioural disorder with three main categories of symptoms; inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It tends to begin in childhood around primary school age. Symptoms can be more noticeable during a change in the child’s life, for example, starting school or moving to a new house.
Some common signs include being easily distracted and unable to sit still. They may make impulsive decisions or careless mistakes. They make speak quickly and excessively, interrupting other’s conversations and not waiting their turn.
These are examples of behavioural traits in those with ADHD, however, there are a multitude of factors and if you are concerned it is important to seek out your GP help for an official diagnosis which will require for your child to be seen by a specialist and for questionnaires to be completed by the carers and teachers.
Common issues parents and carers may have to contend with
A child or young person with ADHD can be challenging due to the intensity of their behaviours. It can at times leave parents and carers feeling stressed, frustrated and overwhelmed. It is important to try to acknowledge their symptoms without expressing anger or annoyance towards the child. It is likely they will not be aware of their hyperactive or inattentive behaviour.
ADHD involves inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive behaviours. These can all be quite disruptive in everyday life and can be difficult to manage for a parent or carer. It is likely to be tiring and draining to keep up with a child with ADHD, as well as keeping discipline. It is important to look after yourself during this time and ask for help when needed.
How to support a child or young person with ADHD
There are many ways to support a child or young person with ADHD. Understanding ADHD is one way to help: learning how it impacts the child or young person, understand it from their perspective and normalise it. ADHD can be associated with creative energy and exploration as well as its more negative aspects. This way it allows you to have open conversations about ADHD in a calm, knowledgeable and supportive way.
A routine will help your child, they can focus on their tasks for the day. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle; including exercise, a balanced diet and good sleep, are useful ways for your child to thrive with ADHD. You can set goals and expectations, breaking down the instructions into single steps and giving positive rewards.
It is important to be open to a child or young person with ADHD, ask questions about their experiences rather than statements or your own opinions about it. It is good to focus on positive conversations and rewards, rather than looking at the negatives and commenting on bad behaviours.
What to say to schools and colleges
It is key to keep consistent contact with schools and colleges. These environments can be challenging for a child or young person with ADHD. You can speak to their teachers about tasks they may find difficult; sitting still, listening quietly, concentrating for long periods and sharing with their classmates.
You can work with the school or college to provide goals for your child and discuss strategies to help them. Some strategies include seating them away from a window where other activity may distract them or close to the teacher, make small goals in lesson times for them to complete and provide a stress ball or similar item for them to quietly play with during class. Sharing as much information as you can about your child’s behaviours, routine and personality will help the school be able to adapt to your child’s needs.
What to say to siblings
It is important to realise that siblings will be impacted by ADHD. They may feel frustrated, confused and angry because of their sibling’s behaviour. Some children change their own behaviour to adapt to their sibling, they may take on too much responsibility to help or avoid conflicts.
Try to explain ADHD to them as clearly as you can. It is great to give them the freedom to ask questions about it and feel they can discuss it with you whenever they wish. You can also help them with strategies to deal with problematic behaviours which will allow them to feel more natural around their sibling.
What to say to extended family
Extended family may need to be aware of ADHD if they are visiting your child. It will help them understand your child’s behaviour and be more empathetic towards them. You can also discuss with your child how much they wish the extended family to be told, depending on your situation.
It may be helpful to explain your child’s ADHD to extended family, so they are able to support you. They can be there to support you, someone outside the household to discuss ADHD or as a release for you.
Additional support for parents and carers
The below organisations offer ADHD specific support for parents and carers:
ADHD Foundation – information and support
The UK ADHD Partnership – information and support
AADD-UK – The site for and by adults with ADHD