What are the Symptoms?

ADHD used to be known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD. In 1994, it was renamed ADHD and broken down into three subtypes, each with its own pattern of behaviors:
  • inability to pay attention to details or a tendency to make careless errors in schoolwork or other activities
  • difficulty with sustained attention in tasks or play activities
  • apparent listening problems
  • difficulty following instructions
  • problems with organization
  • avoidance or dislike of tasks that require mental effort
  • tendency to lose things like toys, notebooks, or homework
  • distractibility
  • forgetfulness in daily activities
  • fidgeting or squirming
  • difficulty remaining seated
  • excessive running or climbing
  • difficulty playing quietly
  • always seeming to be “on the go”
  • excessive talking
  • blurting out answers before hearing the full question
  • difficulty waiting for a turn or in line
  • problems with interrupting or intruding
Involves a combination of the other two types and is the most common
Although it can often be challenging to raise kids with ADHD, it’s important to remember they aren’t “bad,” “acting out,” or being difficult on purpose. And children who are diagnosed with ADHD have difficulty controlling their behavior without medication or behavioral therapy.
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (and is the current term for what used to be known as ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder). At Guide Little Minds we think this is an unhelpful name, as we see ADHD as a brain difference, and a source of potential incredible strengths rather than a disorder. Without diagnosis, support and treatment however, it can make life very difficult and bring many challenges.As you learn more about ADHD, you will find out that this is a trait that affects many aspects of your, or the person you love’s, life, and we encourage you to find out all you can starting with the resources on our pages here.The core symptoms of ADHD are excessive distractibility (hard time focusing), impulsivity (reacting too quickly without thinking), and restlessness (hard time staying still in body and/or mind). These symptoms can lead both children and adults to underachieve, whether at school, at work, or in personal relationships.People with ADHD have many strengths – but they might not always realise that they have them, or had the opportunity to focus on them. Creativity, problem-solving tenacity, ability to empathize, energy are all gifts that often go with ADHD.On the challenging side, people with ADHD have difficulty turning their great ideas into action and often have a track record of underachievement. They may be floundering in school or at work, but it is not because of laziness or an unwillingness to apply themselves. People with ADHD do great one hour and lousy the next, or great one day and lousy the next. Inconsistency of performance is a key symptom of ADHD. Staying put with one activity until it is done is a big challenge.People with ADHD also have trouble with time management. They are not good at estimating in advance how long a task will take to complete and typically procrastinate, waiting until the last minute to get things done. They also have trouble with organization. Kids with ADHD tend to organize by stuffing everything into their backpacks and closets. Adults with ADHD tend to organize by putting everything into endless piles that tend to grow, rather than diminish, over time.

No. You do not have to take medication. However, for 80% of people with ADHD medication is effective. For 20% of people it is not.

At Guide Little Minds we have a comprehensive approach that addresses the totality of the child or adult who comes to us for help. The four key areas for effective treatment are learning as much as you can about ADHD and how it presents in you or the person you love; lifestyle changes including sleep, nutrition and exercise; coaching; and medication where that is effective.

Beyond that, we look at the milieu or system in which the individual lives and try to determine the best school, or the best job, or the best camp, or the best living situation, again always with the goal in mind of promoting talents and strengths. 

No. You do not have to tell your school or employer. However, it can be a helpful step where you might benefit from accommodations, particularly in the school context. Most educational institutions should have a resource person or special education expert who can discuss the needs of the student, and what support or accommodations might be helpful.

The diagnosis of ADHD gets missed all the time in females, as there are gender differences in ADHD symptoms. Women and girls tend not to exhibit disruptive or defiant symptoms, unlike men and boys. They may not stand out. Rather, they sit in the back of the classroom lost in their thoughts, daydreaming, quite content to be in their own world. As adults, they tend to underachieve, not due to lack of talent or hard work, but due to lack of focus and organization, the classic signs of ADHD. If they do seek help, they typically get diagnosed with depression or anxiety, because doctors tend not to think of ADHD in females. They may well have depression and anxiety, but the depression and anxiety are caused by the untreated ADHD. Treating the ADHD often fixes the anxiety and depression because the woman will feel more in control, hence less anxious, and will perform up to potential, which takes away the so-called depression.

Most cases of ADHD are treated by primary care doctors. Because there’s no test that can determine the presence of ADHD, a diagnosis depends on a complete evaluation. When the diagnosis is in doubt, or if there are other concerns, such as Tourette syndrome, a learning disability, or depression, a child may be referred to a neurologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Ultimately, though, the primary care doctor gathers the information, makes the diagnosis, and starts treatment.

Although we don’t know exactly what causes ADHD, we know that it tends to run in families. Like many traits of behavior and temperament, ADHD is genetically influenced, but not genetically determined. Simply put, no one actually inherits ADD, but they can inherit a proclivity for developing the symptoms of ADHD.

You can see the role of genetics at play by glancing at some basic statistics. In a random sample of children, an estimated 5 to 8 percent will have ADHD. However, if one parent has ADHD, the chances of a child developing it shoot up to about 30 percent. If both parents have ADHD, the chances leap to more than 50 percent. Keep in mind, however, that those numbers also mean that none of the children may inherit it, or that all of the children in a family may inherit it.

Over the years, we have met many families where a parent, after discovering their child has ADHD, recalls experiencing similar symptoms and learns that they, too, have ADHD. This usually results in a sense of great relief for the parent, who at last has an explanation for why things may have been so difficult for them. It also can help forge a stronger connection between the parent and child.. We work with individuals and their families to help them overcome their challenges so they can all  achieve their dreams.

  • A child must display behaviours from one of the three subtypes before age 7
  • These behaviours must be more severe than in other kids the same age
  • The behaviours must last for at least 6 months
  • The behaviours must occur in and negatively affect at least two areas of a child’s life (such as school, home, day-care settings, or friendships)
  • The behaviours must also not be linked to stress at home. Children who have experienced a divorce, a move, an illness, a change in school, or other significant life event may suddenly begin to act out or become forgetful. To avoid a misdiagnosis, it’s important to consider whether these factors played a role in the onset of symptoms

First, your child’s doctor will perform a physical examination of your child and ask you about any concerns and symptoms, your child’s past health, your family’s health, any medications your child is taking, any allergies your child may have, and other issues. This is called the medical history, and it’s important because research has shown that ADHD has a strong genetic link and often runs in families. Your child’s doctor may also perform a physical exam as well as tests to check hearing and vision so other medical conditions can be ruled out. Because some emotional conditions, such as extreme stress, depression, and anxiety, can also look like ADHD, you’ll probably be asked to fill out questionnaires that can help rule them out as well. You’ll also likely be asked many questions about your child’s development and his or her behaviors at home, at school, and among friends. Other adults who see your child regularly (like teachers, who are often the first to notice ADHD symptoms) will probably be consulted, too. An educational evaluation, which usually includes a school psychologist, may also be done. It’s important for everyone involved to be as honest and thorough as possible about your child’s strengths and weaknesses.

ADHD is not caused by poor parenting, too much sugar, or vaccines. ADHD has biological origins that aren’t yet clearly understood. No single cause of ADHD has been identified, but researchers have been exploring a number of possible genetic and environmental links. Studies have shown that many children with ADHD have a close relative who also has the disorder. Although experts are unsure whether this is a cause of the disorder, they have found that certain areas of the brain are about 5% to 10% smaller in size and activity in children with ADHD. Chemical changes in the brain have been found as well. Recent research also links smoking during pregnancy to later ADHD in a child. Other risk factors may include premature delivery, very low birth weight, and injuries to the brain at birth. Some studies have even suggested a link between excessive early television watching and future attention problems. Parents should follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) guidelines, which say that children under 2 years old should not have any “screen time” (TV, DVDs or videotapes, computers, or video games) and that kids 2 years and older should be limited to 1 to 2 hours per day, or less, of quality television programming.
One of the difficulties in diagnosing ADHD is that it’s often found in conjunction with other problems. These are called coexisting conditions, and about two thirds of all children with ADHD have one. The most common coexisting conditions are:
At least 35% of all children with ADHD also have oppositional defiant disorder, which is characterized by stubbornness, outbursts of temper, and acts of defiance and rule breaking. Conduct disorder is similar but features more severe hostility and aggression. Children who have conduct disorder are more likely get in trouble with authority figures and, later, possibly with the law. Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder are seen most commonly with the hyperactive and combined subtypes of ADHD.
About 18% of children with ADHD, particularly the inattentive subtype, also experience depression. They may feel inadequate, isolated, frustrated by school failures and social problems, and have low self-esteem.
Anxiety disorders affect about 25% of children with ADHD. Symptoms include excessive worry, fear, or panic, which can also lead to physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, stomach pains, and diarrhea. Other forms of anxiety that can accompany ADHD are obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome, as well as motor or vocal tics (movements or sounds that are repeated over and over). A child who has symptoms of these other conditions should be evaluated by a specialist.
About half of all children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability. The most common learning problems are with reading (dyslexia) and handwriting. Although ADHD isn’t categorized as a learning disability, its interference with concentration and attention can make it even more difficult for a child to perform well in school. If your child has ADHD and a coexisting condition, the doctor will carefully consider that when developing a treatment plan. Some treatments are better than others at addressing specific combinations of symptoms.
ADHD can’t be cured, but it can be successfully managed. Your child’s doctor will work with you to develop an individualized, long-term plan. The goal is to help your child learn to control his or her own behavior and to help families create an atmosphere in which this is most likely to happen. In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication and behavior therapy. Any good treatment plan will require close follow-up and monitoring, and your child’s doctor may make adjustments along the way. Because it’s important for parents to actively participate in their child’s treatment plan, parent education is also considered an important part of ADHD management.
Several different types of medications may be used to treat ADHD: Stimulants are the best-known treatments – they’ve been used for more than 50 years in the treatment of ADHD. Some require several doses per day, each lasting about 4 hours; some last up to 12 hours. Possible side effects include decreased appetite, stomachache, irritability, and insomnia. There’s currently no evidence of any long-term side effects. Nonstimulants were approved for treating ADHD in 2003. These appear to have fewer side effects than stimulants and can last up to 24 hours. Antidepressants are sometimes a treatment option; however, in 2004 the FDA issued a warning that these drugs may lead to a rare increased risk of suicide in children and teens. If an antidepressant is recommended for your child, be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor. Medications can affect kids differently, and a child may respond well to one but not another. When determining the correct treatment for your child, the doctor might try various medications in various doses, especially if your child is being treated for ADHD along with another disorder.

Research has shown that medications used to help curb impulsive behavior and attention difficulties are more effective when they’re combined with behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy attempts to change behavior patterns by: reorganizing your child’s home and school environment giving clear directions and commands setting up a system of consistent rewards for appropriate behaviors and negative consequences for inappropriate ones. Here are some examples of behavioral strategies that may help a child with ADHD: Create a routine. Try to follow the same schedule every day, from wake-up timeto bedtime. Post the schedule in a prominent place, so your child can see where he or she is expected to be throughout the day and when it’s time for homework, play, and chores. Help your child organize. Put schoolbags, clothing, and toys in the same place every day so your child will be less likely to lose them. Avoid distractions. Turn off the TV, radio, and computer games, especially when your child is doing homework. Limit choices. Offer your child a choice between two things (this outfit, meal, toy, etc., or that one) so that he or she isn’t overwhelmed and overstimulated. Change your interactions with your child. Instead of long-winded explanations and cajoling, use clear, brief directions to remind your child of his or her responsibilities. Use goals and rewards. Use a chart to list goals and track positive behaviors, then reward your child’s efforts. Be sure the goals are realistic (think baby steps rather than overnight success). Discipline effectively. Instead of yelling or spanking, use timeouts or removal of privileges as consequences for inappropriate behavior. Younger children may simply need to be distracted or ignored until they display better behavior. Help your child discover a talent. All kids need to experience success to feel good about themselves. Finding out what your child does well – whether it’s sports, art, or music – can boost social skills and self-esteem.

Alternative Treatments Currently, the only ADHD therapies that have been proven effective in scientific studies are medications and behavioral therapy. But your child’s doctor may recommend additional treatments and interventions depending on your child’s symptoms and needs. Some kids with ADHD, for example, may also need special educational interventions such as tutoring, occupational therapy, etc. Every child’s needs are different. A number of other alternative therapies are promoted and tried by parents including: megavitamins, body treatments, diet manipulation, allergy treatment, chiropractic treatment, attention training, visual training, and traditional one-on-one “talking” psychotherapy. However, the scientific research that has been done on these therapies has not found them to be effective, and most of these treatments have not been studied carefully, if at all. Parents should always be wary of any therapy that promises an ADHD “cure,” and if they’re interested in trying something new, they should be sure to speak with their child’s doctor first.

Parenting any child can be tough at times, but parenting a child with ADHD often brings special challenges. Children with ADHD may not respond well to typical parenting practices. Also, because ADHD tends to run in families, parents may also have some problems with organization and consistency themselves and need active coaching to help learn these skills. Experts recommend parent education and support groups to help family members accept the diagnosis and to teach them how to help their child organize his or her environment, develop problem-solving skills, and cope with frustrations. Parent training can also teach parents to respond appropriately to their child’s most trying behaviors and to use calm disciplining techniques. Individual or family counseling may also be helpful.

As your child’s most important advocate, you should become familiar with your child’s medical, legal, and educational rights. Children with ADHD are eligible for special services or accommodations at school under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and an anti-discrimination law known as Section 504. Keep in touch with your child’s teachers and school officials to monitor your child’s progress and keep them informed about your child’s needs. In addition to using routines and a clear system of rewards, here are some other tips to share with teachers for classroom success: Reduce seating distractions. Lessening distractions might be as simple as seating your child near the teacher instead of near the window. Use a homework folder for parent-teacher communications. The teacher can include assignments and progress notes, and you can check to make sure all work is completed on time. Break down assignments. Keep instructions clear and brief, breaking down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. Give positive reinforcement. Always be on the lookout for positive behaviors. Ask the teacher to offer praise when your child stays seated, doesn’t call out, or waits his or her turn, instead of criticizing when he or she doesn’t.

Teach good study skills. Underlining, note taking, and reading out loud can help your child stay focused and retain information. Supervise. Check that your child goes and comes from school with the correct books and materials. Ask that your child be paired with a buddy who can help him or her stay on task. Be sensitive to self-esteem issues. Ask the teacher to provide feedback to your child in private, and avoid asking your child to perform a task in public that might be too difficult. Involve the school counselor or psychologist. He or she can help design behavioural programs to address specific problems in the classroom. Being Your Child’s Biggest Supporter You’re a stronger advocate for your child when you foster good partnerships with everyone involved in your child’s treatment – that includes teachers, doctors, therapists, and even other family members. Take advantage of all the support and education that’s available, and you’ll be able to help your child with ADHD navigate his or her way to success. Reviewed by: W. Douglas Tynan, PhD

So you’ve been asked by the school to get a paediatric assessment, and you may have some concerns of your own about problems at school, or home, and not sure how to go about getting help for your child. This can seem overwhelming, making you feel that your child is the only one experiencing difficulties. This is most certainly not the case!- in fact, 1 in 5 children are identified as having problems in the first few years at school. These may appear as teachers disruptive, have difficulty understanding the teacher’s instructions, or experience fears and anxieties to such a level that it makes learning difficult.  After all!  If your child’s potential was determined at birth, there would be little need for school.

New research shows parents spend an incredible 37 hours a week worrying about their children. An assessment provides understanding and peace of mind that the problems can be addressed.

Your child’s self-esteem 
When kids learn or think differently, new tasks and skills might not come as easily. Self-esteem is tied to how kids value themselves and how capable they feel. If your child has specific learning challenges, they may have more negative feelings and thoughts.

Your ability to help
You’re not sure what will help and worry if you can’t “fix” the issue, you won’t be able to find any way to help and support your child.
An assessment can be the first step you can take to help your child with,  learning, emotional or behavioural problems.

Ways to manage it
Remember: You don’t have to have all the answers and fix it alone. Raising a child who learns or thinks differently can feel lonely. Fortunately, there are people you can turn to for help, like your child’s teacher and paediatrician.

Children with ADHD and learning difficulties
Need to be assessed as early as possible to give the appropriate help.Research shows that there will be a  200 to 300 per cent increase in failure rates without early help, and 50% will have to repeat a grade by high school. 35% do not matriculate, and only 5 % will complete college.

ADHD with progressive learning problems
A recent study showed 80% of children, two years behind in reading, writing, spelling and maths.Even the most intelligent children, with superior intelligence, can show “chronic and severe” underachievement causing low self-esteem.The three main characteristics of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. These can interfere with academic and schooling success. Having unmanaged ADHD and concentration problems is like attending school in body but not in mind.  This is the same as missing 2 to 3 days of school a week. Over the year, this will translate into a large educational gap in education and appear a learning problem.Up to 50 % of children with ADHD also have an associated learning disability, especially spelling, reading, writing and maths. Therefore, just imagine the resulting consequence of the combination of missing 40 % of school and a 50 % increased risk of learning problems. This combination can hugely reduce your child’s chance of success, without early identification and treatment of problems.
  • Just got the report card! And I am totally shocked by the poor grades.
  • School grades up to now have been good, and report cards have not indicated any problems.
  • Able to complete homework but struggling to complete longer independent tasks at school.
  • I was called in for a meeting with the teacher for the first time ever to discuss my child’s behaviour and concentration.
  • Organisation and getting reading for school in the mornings is a struggle.
  • She was always making us late.
  • Has become so emotional and there is increased conflict with siblings.
  • I dread the afternoons and homework.
  • I don’t see the problems at home that the teacher sees at school.
  • Last year’s teacher didn’t mention there was a problem.
  • Has become withdrawn and wants to constantly stay in their room.
  • She is recently showing school avoidance.
  • Homework is a battleground.
  • Perhaps this school is not the right one for my child. 
  • Overly sensitive to clothing, sensitive to sounds and smells.
  • Simple, quick one-step tasks are completed efficiently and accurately, but complex tasks are not.
  • The teacher says she is a bright child, but she is not reaching her true potential because of her concentration.
  • He is taking too long to finish his classwork, even after an extra time allowance.  Gets distracted from the task at hand.
  • She fidgets a lot with her stationery, cannot sit still and wants to get up from her seat and move around.
  • Gets easily frustrated with himself.
  • Teacher says that the concentration is interfering with learning.
  • He finds being focused, organised and completing tasks more challenging. It exhausts him.
  • She constantly wriggles on her chair and gets distracted by her belongings. The teacher has to remove everything from the table to limit distractions.
  • Need to sit on his own in front of the class next to the teacher to get any work done.
  • Often out of his seat or collecting things under the table that he has dropped.
  • Enormous effort to get everything down on paper and this effort leaves her anxious and exhausted at the end of every day.
  • Concentration is erratic, and therefore so is the quality and accuracy of work. This can cause a feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • Impact of poor concentration. Looks exhausted and complains of tiredness in the afternoons at home.
  • Tasks are rushed due to daydreaming and reduced time to complete tasks—careless errors.
  • With increased demands of the second and third term, the increased workload, poor attention to detail, and the inability to concentrate for extended periods lead to decompensation and falling behind the class.
  • Work is completed but is too untidy, and work presentation is below average.
  • Disrespectful and argumentative.
  • Other learners complain they cannot concentrate because he is distracting them. The teacher constantly has to stop teaching to discipline him. The other children’s learning is negatively impacted by his behaviour.
  • Emotionally immature and lacks independence. Work incomplete. Dreamy and distracted.
  • Has difficulty handling transitions.
  • Battles to sit upright in his seat, and poor coordination with sports.
  • Struggles with gross motor coordination are observed during sport and PE.
  • Fine motor ability is weak, and handwriting is untidy, compared to his same-sex peers.
  • It looks like her “reflexes are not coordinated ”—struggles to dress.
  • Gross and fine motor coordination is affecting his writing and sport. 
  • The fine motor ability affects her writing, which prevents her from putting her thoughts down onto paper.
  • At times he does go off into a world of his own. His weak fine and gross motor ability limit his school performance.
  • The other girls in the class often ask her to settle down. 
  • I want to manage the focus before her self-esteem is eroded. I know she is capable; however, the erratic focus is holding her back, which is so sad considering her true potential. We want to make learning easier her.
  • Needs extra attention to maths and languages as he is falling behind.
  • As the work has become more detailed and conceptual, she finds it more difficult to hold information in her head, manipulate and generate output.
  • It’s overwhelming when there are so many elements and steps to remember when tasks become more complex.
  • His slower work pace is also a big concern, having to remember instructions and keeping up with the majority of the class is a worry.
  • She is aware that she is weaker in some areas and slower in completing certain tasks in the class.
  • He is aware that he is weaker in maths. He lacks confidence.
  • Her writing is a little large.
  • Battles to write stories.
  • Informal spelling is poor and learned spellings are good.
  • The teacher has suggested having an occupational therapy assessment.
  • Letter and number reversals. 
  • Suggested a move to learners support class or another school to address learning barriers. Despite additional speech and language and OT therapy, there remain difficulties keeping up with, the mainstream class.
  • Sentence structure, spelling and grammar are weak. This reduces self-esteem causing anxiety and reluctance to put work down on paper, for fear of getting work wrong.
  • Completes work but takes a long time.
  • Takes a lot longer to master concepts that have been taught.
  • He gets frustrated and sad if he can’t do what other children can do. It does affect his confidence.
  • She is having problems with first, second and third additional languages. It’s difficult to keep up-to-date with these subjects, but she is up-to-date with all other classwork. 
  • Able to read fluently, but struggles to put her thoughts onto paper. Vocabulary, spelling and sentence construction are below average.
  • He struggles to remember new concepts taught, and also methods of working things out. He often reads the instructions incorrectly, eg, doubling numbers instead of having them. He loves arts, drawing and colouring in. 
  • Comprehensions are difficult.
  • Lack of vocabulary and imagination seems to hamper his creative writing. He struggles to understand how to write using paragraphs. Sentence construction is basic.
  • Does not enjoy maths.
  • Expresses herself well, verbally, but cannot put these ideas on paper.
  • Constant tummy ache and always wants to go to the sick room.
  • Constantly wants to go to the bathroom during class time.
  • Battles to connect with his peers socially and keep friends.
  • Has become a loner and is alone in the library at the break.
  • She is a bright girl and has the potential to succeed given enough time.
  • Needs to find his own confidence.
  • Always anxious despite getting reassurance.
  • Starting to bite nails.
  • He gets distraught when the other children have finished work and are allowed to do something fun and he still has to complete his work.
  • Becomes more stressed when doing longer tasks, and is desperate to finish as she knows how to do them, but there isn’t enough time. She rushes and makes careless mistakes.
  • Needs additional assistance to be organised, and remember routines. Needs to double-check other children and see that she is doing the right things required to work independently.
  • He is bright and able to understand concepts, but cannot complete tasks. This is starting to impact self-esteem. The early year enthusiasm, excitement and love for his classroom is beginning to wane.