All you need to know about ADHD

What is ADHD


ADHD is a neurological condition related to chemical imbalances in the brain and is closely linked to genetic predisposition and hereditary factors. Previously there was a distinction made between ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Recently the diagnoses of these two have been combined and diagnosed in terms of three main characteristics. These main characteristics include; Impulsivity, Inattention and Hyperactivity [Smith & Segal (2014)]:

Symptoms of Impulsivity in children:

  • Acts without thinking
  • Blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called on or hear the whole question
  • Can’t wait for his or her turn in line or in games
  • Often interrupts others
  • Intrudes on other people’s conversations or games
  • Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums
  • Guesses, rather than taking time to solve a problem

Symptoms of Inattention in children:

  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
  • Appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
  • Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
  • Gets bored with a task before it’s completed
  • Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items

Symptoms of Hyperactivity in children:

  • Constantly fidgets and squirms
  • Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
  • Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
  • Talks excessively
  • Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
  • Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
  • May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”

How ADHD can be diagnosed

In order to make a proper diagnosis of ADHD, it is very important to do a thorough Psycho-Educational assessment with an Educational Psychologist. Often children are missed-diagnosed with ADHD because they display symptoms of ADHD. However, there are other factors that may be causing them to display these symptoms like:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Major traumatic life events
  • Psychological disorders
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Medical conditions
  • Developmental disorders
  • Low Cognitive Functioning

How ADHD can be treated

It is very important to follow a holistic intervention plan. This includes collaboration between the schoolteachers and the Educational Psychologist as well as parents during the therapy process. Educational Psychologists work very closely with Occupational Therapists, Pediatricians, Audiologists, Speech Therapists and Neurologist when needed to assist with any other difficulties that need to be addressed. In collaboration with these medical practitioners, medication can be prescribed when needed, but it might not always be necessary or the only treatment option for your child. Effective treatment for ADHD also includes education, behavior therapy with an Educational Psychologist focusing on improving the effects of ADHD, support at home and school, exercise, and proper nutrition.

At home, parents can implement the following: [Smith & Segal – (2014)]

  • Stay positive and healthy parents: when you take care of yourself, you are better able to take care of your children.
  • Establish structure and stick to it: it is very important to set up and follow a routine and structure, as this will provide every family member with guidelines to follow.
  • Set clear expectations and rules: make sure the rules are simple and that they are followed. Children with ADHD thrive on a discipline style utilizing rewards and consequences.

Using Rewards and Consequences [Smith & Segal (2014)]



Reward your child with privileges, praise, or activities, rather than with food or toys.

Consequences should be spelled out in advance and occur immediately after your child has misbehaved.

Change rewards frequently. Kids with ADHD get bored if the reward is always the same.

Try time-outs and the removal of privileges as consequences for misbehavior.

Make a chart with points or stars awarded for good behavior, so your child has a visual reminder of his or her successes.

Remove your child from situations and environments that trigger inappropriate behavior.

Immediate rewards work better than the promise of a future reward, but small rewards leading to a big one can also work.

When your child misbehaves, ask what he or she could have done instead. Then have your child demonstrate it.

Always follow through with a reward.

Always follow through with a consequence.

  • Encourage movement and sleep: children with ADHD have excess energy to burn therefore physical activities will assist in this regard. Sleep is therefore just as important as it allows the mind to rest and in turn improve attention and concentration.
  • Help your child follow a healthy eating plan: a Low GI eating plan fostering sustained energy can show wonderful improvements in your child’s attention and concentration as it assists with keeping blood sugar levels regulated. Insuring that your child eats a healthy balanced diet will contribute to improving their focus.
  • Help your child improve their social skills: this will assist them in making and keeping friends.

In addition to the challenges, there are also positive traits associated with children who have ADHD:

  • Creativity – Children who have ADHD can be very creative and imaginative.

  • Flexibility – Because children with ADHD consider a lot of options at once, they don’t become set on one alternative early on and are more open to different ideas.

  • Enthusiasm and spontaneity – Children with ADHD are rarely boring! They’re interested in a lot of different things and have lively personalities.

  • Energy and drive – When kids with ADHD are motivated, they work or play hard and strive to succeed.

  • ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence or talent. Many children with ADHD are intellectually or artistically gifted.

The things we focus on are the things that will become more prominent. Therefore if we keep on focusing on the challenges, they will become more challenging. Always try to focus on your child’s strengths and support them in improving their challenges!

All you need to know about ADHD

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