ADHD is a developmental disorder which begins in early childhood. It is estimated to affect one in 20 children in Australia and is more common in boys. In some children, these symptoms improve as they get older, but others will continue to have symptoms as adults.
It’s normal for children to be restless and distracted from time to time. But in children with ADHD these symptoms can be more extreme, and can impact on their daily life, including school, friendships and family life. The exact cause of ADHD is unknown but is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors which together cause changes in the development and function of the brain.
While no parent wants to find out their child has ADHD, the good news is that it is treatable. And many children with ADHD go on to do well, both at school and socially.
There are several treatment options available, which should be tailored to the specific needs of your child and your family. These include psychological and behavioural therapies, positive parenting techniques and medication.
Behaviour strategies that you can implement at home focus on teaching your child the skills they need to increase their cooperative behaviour and reduce their challenging behaviours.
- Giving your child clear verbal instructions so they understand what you want them to do.
- Preventing your child from getting too tired by ensuring they are getting adequate sleep, breaking up activities with regular rest breaks and alternating academic tasks with physical activity.
- Building regular, predictable routines and daily schedules for your child to follow, letting them know in advance if the schedule is going to change and limiting the choices they need to make.
- Helping your child to develop social skills by rewarding helpful behaviours and teaching them appropriate responses where there’s a problem with another child.
- Reinforcing positive behaviours by providing praise, encouragement and rewards.
- Providing a quiet, clutter-free space for doing homework.
Your child may need the help and support of a number of health professionals including your GP, a paediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist and/or family therapist. It’s important that you have an individualised management plan which takes into account all aspects of your child’s life, including their needs and responsibilities at home, at school and in other social settings. The treatment plan is best developed in collaboration with your child’s doctor, other health professionals involved in your child’s care and your child’s teachers/school.
For more information:
- Australian Guidelines on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Raising Children: ADHD
- Raising Children: Managing ADHD
- Health Direct: Symptoms of ADHD
- Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne: Ways to help children with ADHD