ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) affects one in twenty Australians, that’s 1.2 million people, but is frequently misunderstood and undiagnosed. It is a pattern of behaviour that begins in childhood, and in most cases continues throughout the person’s lifespan. Key features are inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and it may also be linked to other mental health conditions. Untreated ADHD can cause lifetime impairment; however there are effective ways of managing ADHD.
ADHD can be defined as a neurobiological developmental disorder.
Neuro = brain
Biological = is genetic and can run in families
Developmental = effects the ability to learn
The type of ADHD diagnosed depends on the most predominate set of symptoms.
Inattentive behaviours can include:
- does not seem to hear you when you ask them to do something (needing to ask a number of times to get a response)
- not following through on what you ask, despite agreeing to do so (e.g. put your bag away)
- easily distracted from a task by noises or own thoughts (hard to keep attention on the task at hand)
- daydreaming in class so that important instructions or teachings are missed
- not following safety instructions (e.g. “Stop the scooter at the corner”)
- losing important belongings (e.g. school jumpers, library books, lunch boxes, travel passes, school permission notes, phones and chargers)
- forgetting to bring homework books home
- forgetting to do homework or return homework to school
- not looking after important belongings (e.g. homework or school photos crushed in school bag, lids left off glue)
- starting a task but not completing it, often due to getting distracted or bored
- messy and disorganised bedroom (e.g. drawers and doors left open, rotting food in old lunchboxes)
- leaving doors and windows unlocked if last to leave home (teenagers)
- losing track of time and regularly running late / poor sense of time.
Hyperactive behaviours can include:
- running off at school
- climbing up furniture, trees, fences in an unsafe manner despite being asked not to do so (preschool, primary school)
- not remaining seated in the classroom
- constant chatter or talking too loudly and at the wrong times
- interrupting other people’s conversations because unable to wait
- difficulty getting to bed, staying in bed, or getting to sleep at night
- throwing things in the classroom without thinking (e.g. balls) and therefore breaking windows or furniture by accident.
Impulsive behaviours can include:
- being disruptive in class, perhaps trying to entertain people
- starting an activity without thinking through the consequences
- rushing through activities without doing them properly in order to get them done (e.g. homework)
- impulsively speaking without realising the comment might be inappropriate
- difficulty keeping secrets when asked
- difficulty tolerating boredom (opting for stimulating activities)
- getting excited about something new then quickly losing interest
- difficulty persisting with activities that require commitment and practice unless very interested (e.g. learning an instrument or language, maths practice)
- overeating and making poor food choices
- smoking or drinking or impulsive sex (in teenage years)
- running up bills for excessive phone use or TV/music downloads
- careless spending of pocket money or other savings
- difficulty resisting the stimulation of social media, internet, TV and gaming
- engaging in risky impulsive activities, typically when revved up in the company of friends (e.g. train-surfing, shopping trolley joy-rides, shoplifting minor items).