What is ADHD

What is ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder )?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as defined by the DSM V(Diagnostic Statistical Manual V, 2013) is a  persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity- impulsivity that interferes with function or development.

ADHD is a developmental problem which results in poor concentration and control of impulses. It can affect children’s learning and social skills, and also family functioning. Currently approximately 3-5 of every 100 children in Australia have ADHD. It is much more common in boys than girls.

Diagnosing ADHD

The guidelines of the DSM V are used to assist in the diagnosis of ADHD. Your doctor can give you a referral to a paediatrician or child psychologist who will undertake an assessment. There is no single test for diagnosis.

Early Signs of ADHD in Toddlers

All toddlers and young children have a limited attention span. Signs of ADHD in toddlers may be evident if this limited attention span, overactivity and impulsivity are a persistent issue and it is occurring in all aspects of a child’s life. If as a parent you are  asking yourself ‘does my child have ADHD’ then it may be wise to seek support.

Symptoms of ADHD

Inattention – forgetting instructions, seeming not to listen to others, difficulty concentrating on a task and often moves from one task to another without completing anything.

Impulsivity – may be overly accident prone, talks over the top of others, can be very emotional and lose control of emotions easily.

Overactivity – will seem restless, constantly fidgets, often unable to sit still and always needing to be doing something.

What Causes ADHD?

The exact cause of ADHD is unknown and is currently thought that a combination of factors is involved. One theory is genetics as ADHD tends to run in families. Research has identified a number of differences in the brains of people with ADHD compared to those without however, the significance of this difference is unclear.

Other possible causes discussed by researchers include- premature birth, low birth weight, damage to brain in utero or in a child’s early years. For any of these possible causes to be validated, more research is required.

Types & Characteristics of ADHD

It is widely considered that there are two types of ADHD- those with inattentiveness and those with hyperactivity and impulsivity. Many who have a diagnosis of ADHD experience difficulties in both areas.

ADHD in Children

ADHD in children is usually noticeable by the age of 6. It is often at this time that it becomes more noticeable as the child starts school and is challenged by the structure of the school day and the need to be involved with and complete work tasks.

Teaching Children with ADHD

Teaching children with ADHD can be challenging due to behaviour demonstrated which is symptomatic of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

Teaching Strategies

Verbal Information

  • Keep instructions short and clear
  • Use the child’s name to gain their attention before giving instruction or use a whole of class prompt ‘all eyes on me’ before starting
  • Have students repeat the instruction or task requirement back to you
  • Use prompt sheets to keep the child focused
  • Use a timer so the child can monitor their progression towards task achievement
  • Encourage the child, praise their efforts, check their progress during the task

Tasks requiring reading and writing

  • Draw the child’s attention to important in formation. For handouts- underline, highlight, bold text, use capital letters to focus on important points of information. For information provided via technology use the same strategies by placing emphasis on the text by bolding, using italics or using colour.
  • Use technology devices to reduce anxiety around written task requirements as handwriting may be an area of challenge.

General strategies

  • Direct instruction, explicit teaching can be used and make sure this is in place for other students so as not to be seen as focusing on a particular student
  • Ensure teaching provides multi-model methods- hands on, auditory, visual
  • Provide check in sheets to keep the child on task
  • Be aware of the students’ optimal learning window and make good use of this time
  • Build in ‘break’ times and allow for physical movement
  • Be aware of your classroom environment it should be free from clutter
  • Where possible follow a routine
  • Provide a daily schedule of events, give advanced warning if you know it is going to change
  • Use a ‘countdown’ clock so children know how much time is left for the tasks
  • If you know the child has difficulty making choices, keep these to a minimum within activity options
  • Seating plans should consider placing the child near to the teacher and/or role models for on task behaviour
  • Negotiate classroom expectations and behaviours
  • Set achievable goals for the child, acknowledge their success- individually, in the group and with certificates of achievement
  • If they are challenged by some aspects of the work, draw attention to what they have achieved to boost their self esteem to continue with their efforts
  • Attend to any learning challenges immediately to avoid low self-esteem or behavioural outbursts
  • Have an emotions thermometer available for child to check in with so they can learn self-management
  • Social skills can be an area of challenge, start with paired or small group activities that will enable the child to learn skills and gradually move to large group activities
  • Explicitly teach the child how to identify their behaviour triggers and he strategies to manage these
  • At the end of each day make time for a session where children can tell what went well for them today, celebrate achievements, social, academic, creative, sports etc

Recess and lunchtime

  • Unstructured time can cause difficulties, use a buddy system if appropriate
  • Go over the playground rules before break times
  • Explicitly teach the rules of games
  • Teach the child how to enter and leave a game
  • Teach the child how initiate a conversation, maintain a conversation and end a conversation
  • Organise ‘check in times’ with the teacher on yard duty if required
  • Make sure all teachers are aware of the challenges the child may experience
  • Have the child take a small emotions thermometer in their pocket for self checking
  • Have teachers carry an emotions thermometer with them
  • Organise graduated break times so child spends some time on the playground and the rest in place of their choice eg. library
  • Acknowledge good choices

ADHD in Teenagers

If a ADHD is not recognised in childhood it might be diagnosed in the teen years. The symptoms may become more apparent in teenagers as they grapple with the demands of school, social activities and increased responsibilities within the family unit.

Symptoms of ADHD in teens

  • Distractibility
  • Disorganisation
  • Poor concentration
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

Teens with ADHD

As hormonal changes begin to occur the symptoms for teens may become worse. The demands of school, out of school activities, increased home responsibilities can all cause an increase in the symptoms of ADHD.

Distractibility, disorganisation and poor concentration can cause problems for the teen at school and learning problems may begin to become more apparent and grades may begin to slip.

Teaching strategies

  • Organisational scaffolds- put a coding system in place for subject specific materials
  • Time table coding system to match the above system
  • Establish a homework diary either an electronic or paper-based version
  • Poor concentration- establish a time routine for on task work followed by a break followed by work task
  • Use a countdown clock for student to self-monitor on task behaviour
  • Follow all strategies in section 5 as required.

ADHD Symptoms in Adults

There is a lack of research in the diagnosis and symptoms of ADHD in adults. As it is a developmental disorder it is likely that an individual has had a diagnosis as a child or teenager and ADHD symptoms in adults will have persisted and may present in the same ways. ADHD symptoms in adults may been managed well through the use of various strategies but may become more evident in times of stress and anxiety.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in adults

  • Difficulty in getting organised – responsibilities of a job, managing a household can become overwhelming and lead to significant disorganisation
  • Recklessness – distractibility, poor concentration and lack of attention are more likely in an adult with ADHD and in risk taking behaviour
  • Distractibility – poor attention to tasks and distractions such as in the work place may lead to under-performance and task incompletion.
  • Poor concentration – ‘zoning out’ or not listening, forgetting to do things
  • Hyperactivity – restlessness and trouble relaxing can lead to exhaustion and poor sleep patterns impacting upon other symptoms
  • Impulsivity – outbursts of inappropriate behaviour over minor problems due to an inability to self-regulate and monitor self-control strategies
  • Social interactions – many have mood swings, low levels of tolerance, trouble managing stress, poor impulse control, all of which can put a strain on relationships.

Treatments & Support Services for ADHD

Treatment and support services for children, teenagers and adults are available if you suspect or have a diagnosis of ADHD.

Treatment for ADHD in children

Paediatricians and psychologist may first suggest behavioural programs/interventions. Schools will need to be aware of the diagnosis so support structures can be put in place. If learning difficulties and behavioural challenges become apparent, then an Individual Learning Plan will need to be developed in consultation with the parent and students to develop goals and strategies to support participation and success.

Treatment for adults

As an adult with ADHD a psychologist or psychiatrist will work with you to develop goals and strategies to put in place to support the areas in which you are experiencing a challenge/s.

Alongside behavioural and social management techniques and strategies, there are medications that can assist in some cases with the symptoms of ADHD. These can be discussed with your treating doctor.

Dealing With ADHD

Dealing with the symptoms of ADHD will be dependent on the age of the individual at the time of diagnosis. If a suspicion or diagnosis comes early, then behavioural interventions and structures can be put in place to assist the individual. Many of these strategies will become a part of the individuals daily functioning and will hopefully aid the management of the symptoms.

During the teen years hormonal issues arise and further steps to manage symptoms may be necessary to assist the teen to cope with the increased demands of these years.

Adulthood will require ongoing management and awareness of strategies that have be useful in the past. New strategies may be required to manage the increased responsibilities of work, relationships and the spontaneous issues that can occur daily.

What’s the Next Step?

Being aware of how ADHD affects your child, teenager and an adult is the first step in gaining a better understanding of what can be done and the things that can be put in place.

It is important to gather information and keep things organised to demonstrate a pattern of ongoing symptoms to gain support into the future.

ADHD Resources

Being informed is the best way to get things done. Within the Think Organise Do website there are over 300 articles and resources to assist you.

The information contained within these pages is evidenced based and is being successfully used daily by parents, teachers and individuals to support the education, growth and development of young children, teenagers and adults.

Checklists in two formats, How To and Templates are available to assist you across a number of areas within this site.

How To

The extensive resources within this site can help you get organised and assist in the development of skills for the individual with an autism spectrum disorder.

The How To section provides a step by step process to the achievement of a task. For those individuals with autism who require visual imagery to help them make connections to information, each How To has be created and can be downloaded in a visual format. The written word also appears to aid in language development. For those who require the written word only this is also available in a separate download. If you prefer both versions can be followed on your mobile device.


We have many templates that can be used as checklists to help guide an individual with autism through a particular process. Having such a checklist can help the individual focus on the task, thereby reducing anxiety by understanding exactly what the task is. These templates can be downloaded or are readily accessible on a mobile device.

Think Organise Do Pro

Think Organise Do Pro is a professional learning service. It is setup to assist education facilities, community organisations and businesses to be better informed about inclusive practices to support individuals with ADHD.  Think Organise Do Pro facilitates seminars and workshops that focuses on the specific needs of each environment. This service can come to your facility with your specific area of need being the focus or a generalist overview can be presented.