What is ADHD?

Some statistics show that ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is seen in about 7% of children. ADHD is a developmental disorder, typically beginning in childhood and generally features problems with impulsivity, attention and concentration, and hyperactivity. The effect on the person’s overall functioning can be significant, and the condition is believed to be most prevalent mental health disorder in children. While many children with the diagnosis see their symptoms ameliorate as they mature, most (approximately 65%) of children have ongoing symptoms in their adult years.

The signs and symptoms of ADHD are categorized into two main areas; hyperactivity/impulsivity) or inattention. Below describes symptoms both of these categories:

Hyperactivity/impulsivity:

  • Restlessness (e.g. fidgeting, inability to remain seated)
  • Problems completing tasks quietly (e.g. playing quietly)
  • Interrupting others
  • Impulsivity, not thinking things through (e.g. grabbing things from others, responds to questions prematurely)
  • Poor ability to wait for their turn
  • Excessive hyperactivity (e.g. small children may constantly run, jump or climb)

Inattention:

  • Poor concentration and ability to stay focused/on task
  • Disorganisation (e.g. cannot organize tasks or arrange tools/equipment needed for an activity)
  • Losing belongings or frequently forgetting things
  • Poor ability to follow direction
  • Careless and frequently makes mistakes
  • Appears not to be listening when being spoken to (e.g. seems to be daydreaming)

When being diagnosed, children may fall into one category, or may have a combined condition of the disorder, where they display symptoms from both groups. Children with the combined variety of ADHD are more likely to be referred to professional services, as their symptoms tend to be more severe and have a great impact on their behaviours and functioning.

How can an ADHD psychologist help?

A diagnosis of ADHD is usually made by health professionals, either a doctor (most commonly a paediatrician or psychiatrist) or psychologist. Sometimes, another allied health worker, such as a speech therapist, may make the diagnosis also. As children are in the stage of rapid development and growth, assessment and diagnosis must be done carefully to avoid misdiagnosis.

Once a diagnosis of ADHD has been established, treatment options generally include medications and behavioural therapies, and often a psychologist and paediatrician are involved in the individual’s care. The type of psychology treatment utilized is contingent on the child’s and their family’s needs. If the ADHD is somewhat mild and the child possesses nil other behavioural or developmental disorders, the outcome for the child can be quite positive. Naturally, children with more severe symptoms or those who have other co-morbid difficulties, may need more intensive treatments, such as more medication to accompany psychology input, or more frequent sessions with a psychologist. Treatment involving medications are prescribed by a Doctor, and generally involve the use of stimulants. The focus of psychology usually comprises of behavioural training, training for parents/carers (e.g. teaching parents more effective ways to manage the child’s behavior, or how to problem-solve and use discipline more productively). The psychologist might also focus on learning difficulties or provide training for social skills, as it is not uncommon for children with ADHD to also struggle in these areas. Moreover, the child’s family, primary carers (i.e. parents) and school teachers also collaborate in therapy. By integrating as many key personnel in the child’s life as possible into treatment, it aims to generate a cohesive support network for the child.