What is ADHD?

What is ADHD?

Paying attention, sitting still and curbing urges are good skills for children to learn. But those things are hard for children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Some signs of the disorder are:

  • Trouble paying attention
  • High levels of action (hyperactivity)
  • Acting before thinking (impulsivity)

For children with ADHD, these behaviors happen more often than what is considered normal for children their age. Some children with ADHD only have problems with attention, while others deal only with hyperactivity and impulsivity. Most have problems with all three.

Get Help

Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about ADHD. There is no single test for it, but a full evaluation will help with treatment. Children with ADHD can thrive, but diagnosis and knowing how best to treat it are critical, says the National Resource Center on ADHD. leaving site icon Treatment choices include:

  • Behavior therapy to help children learn positive actions and limit problem behaviors
  • Medication therapy to help children handle symptoms and control some of the behavioral problems
  • Blend of both to help children six years of age and older leaving site icon

Treatment must be monitored. Long-term monitoring is vital to successfully handling ADHD. Studies show that children with ADHD who stop treatment are at a greater risk for more serious problems later. Other steps to take may involve parent and child training, school programs that support kids with ADHD and family therapy.

Tips for Parents:
  • Set a routine. Try to follow the same schedule each day, from wake-up time to bedtime.
  • Get organized. Encourage your child to put schoolbags, clothing and toys in the same place each day so your child will be less likely to lose them.
  • Handle distractions. Turn off the TV, limit noise, and give a clean workspace when your child is doing homework. Some children with ADHD learn well if they are moving or listening to music. Watch your child and see what works.
  • Limit choices. Offer choices between a few things so that your child doesn’t have too many to choose from.
  • Be clear and specific. Let your child know you are listening by telling what you heard them say. Use clear, brief directions when they need to do something.
  • Use goals and praise. Use a chart to list goals and track positive behaviors. Let your child know when they have done well. Reward their efforts. Be sure the goals are realistic.
  • Create positive chances. Children with ADHD may find certain situations stressful. Find what your child does well — whether it’s school, sports, art, music or play. That can help create positive experiences.
  • Provide a healthy life. Healthy food, physical activity and sufficient sleep are important. They can sometimes help with ADHD symptoms.
What about Adults with ADHD?

Adults can also have ADHD. The National Institute of Mental Health leaving site icon says adults can organize their life by:

  • Sticking to routines
  • Making lists for activities
  • Using a calendar for events
  • Setting reminders
  • Keeping things like keys and papers in an assigned space
  • Breaking down large tasks into smaller steps
Other Things You Can Do?
Sources: Treatment of ADHD, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022; The A.D.D. Resource Center, leaving site icon 2019; Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, leaving site icon National Institutes of Mental Health, 2022

Originally published 9/4/2019; Revised 2022