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Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder ADHD

ADHD causes problems with children's behaviour. Usually children with ADHD:

  • Can't pay attention for long
  • Do things without thinking; and
  • Are too active.

What is the issue?

The behaviours happen more often and are worse than those usually seen in a child of the same age. The problems happen in a number of different places, like school, home and social settings. Every child is different so ADHD looks different in every child. It can be very complicated. Between 3 and 9 children in every 100 seen by health workers are diagnosed with ADHD. Research suggests that ADHD may be:

  • Inherited from a family member - this appears to be the largest contributing factor; and/or
  • Due to other influences on individual and body chemistry.

What are the signs of ADHD?

Families and teachers say that children with ADHD have difficulty:

  • Concentrating and paying attention. Children with ADHD are easily distracted, particularly when there are lots of things going on around them. Some children may daydream.
  • Sitting still. Children with ADHD often squirm, fidget, get out of their seats a lot in the classroom, run around and climb. They're always on the go and are unable to sit quietly and play.
  • Humming, fast talking, or making noises.
  • Acting without thinking or understanding the consequences. They may be risk takers.
  • Difficulty waiting for rewards.
  • Difficulty waiting. Children with ADHD may appear to be rude, interrupt or talk over others. They may blurt out answers and have trouble waiting their turn.
  • Following instructions or rules.

Other problems that may go with ADHD

Some children with ADHD have problems with:

  • School work: learning problems and/or poor school achievements
  • Thinking skills: trouble with organising and complex problem solving
  • Emotional problems: Anxiety, depression, low self esteem and anger are common
  • Social problems: Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Behavioural problems: Tantrums, not doing as they are asked, defiant, touchy or easily annoyed, aggressive and argumentative with others; and
  • Language problems: Difficulty understanding and organising language.

These problems are more likely to go along with ADHD but are not part of ADHD. If these other problems are present, more specialised treatment may be needed.

Assessment of ADHD

For general practitioners, careful assessment is needed to diagnose ADHD. Paediatricians, child mental health professionals or child psychiatrists are trained to make this assessment. Assessment should cover:

  • The child's behaviour at school or work, home and in social settings
  • History of the child's problem
  • Vision and hearing checks
  • What is happening at home; and
  • How the child gets on with other young people.

It is important to remember that behaviour that may indicate a diagnosis must be occurring in more than one setting.

Managing ADHD

ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood. As children grow up their problems may become less obvious but ADHD does not disappear altogether. Proper treatment means that in most cases symptoms of ADHD can be managed and a child's behaviour and life improves.

Research suggests that a mix of education, learning new behaviours and medication may be helpful. Medication helps about 80% of children who have ADHD. A doctor, usually a specialist, is the best person to look after ADHD medication treatment. A doctor makes sure your child is getting the right dose and checks for any side-effects. Often medications can help control the basic problems of ADHD, such as poor attention, over activity and acting without thinking. Other treatments may be helpful to manage problems with emotions, behaviour and school. Health and education workers can help families to manage ADHD.

Things to try

Parents and carers can help children with ADHD manage their behaviour by:

  • Being positive about your child. Show them the good things about themselves. Even some parts of ADHD can be seen as positive e.g. lots of energy, willing to try new things, ready to talk, spontaneous, happy enthusiastic, imaginative, and so on.
  • Demonstrating your own positive communication and problem solving skills.
  • Noticing and using lots of rewards and praise for good behaviour. Often rewards or consequences mean less to children with ADHD so use special rewards your child likes. Rewards encourage children to work eg. little toys or things they want, particular privileges or special activities.
  • Making sure children have clear and consistent routines at home and school.
  • Gaining their attention by starting a request or instruction with their name.
  • Using short, to the point, instructions. Children with ADHD often have difficulty understanding spoken information. The more words you use, the less they understand.
  • Breaking down jobs into smaller steps. Praise and encourage the child for trying as well as for finishing the job.
  • Praise helps children learn to manage their behaviours and builds confidence.
  • Giving children a quiet place to study. Turn off radio and TV. Make sure the space is clear and s/he only has the things needed to do the work.
  • Telling children straight away about how they are going. Children with ADHD need quicker feedback for their behaviour because their attention is often shorter than other children.
  • Being confident, consistent and quick to respond when your child misbehaves. Children with ADHD usually act without thinking about consequences.Giving consistent and immediate consequences assists children to learn self-control.
  • Having a good understanding of your child's ability to control their behaviours. Keep in mind what is realistic for your child. This helps guide your reactions to your child's behaviour; and
  • Seeking counselling if you and your partner are having relationship difficulties, as constant fighting between parents can make things worse. Sorting out relationship problems may help your child.

How to get help

  • Your child's general practitioner, teacher, guidance officer, school counsellor or school health nurse may be able to assist your child.
  • A General Practitioner can refer you to a Paediatrician if your child needs a more specialised assessment or treatment.
  • Your general practitioner may refer you to other specialists who work with children and adolescents such as a private psychologist, psychiatrist or other health worker.
  • Your local Community Health Centre
  • Triple P Positive Parenting Program. The program assists in reducing disruptive behaviours in children and young people by providing information and counselling to promote parenting skills.
  • The Brisbane North Youth Service Provider Directory has details of many services, and can be accessed at clear thinking or you could also consider one of the following.


  • Association of Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill -Support and information for significant other/s of those affected by mental illness. Call their head office on (07) 3254 1881 or see arafmiqld for local support groups.
  • 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) - For general health information and referral. Includes the Child Health Line.
  • Kids Help Line -Free national telephone counselling for children and young people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Phone 1800 55 1800.
  • Lifeline -Free counselling and support, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Phone 13 11 14.
  • Parentline - Counselling and support for parents, available 8am - 10pm, seven days a week. Phone 1300 30 1300.
  • Queensland Transcultural Mental Health Service - Provides mental health assistance and information to people from culturally diverse backgrounds. Phone (07) 3167 8333 during business hours.
  • SANE Australia -National charity aimed at enhancing mental health through campaigning, education and research. Phone 1800 187 263.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association of Queensland, ADDAQ is an information and support service for ADD/ADHD. The service is self funded and operated by volunteers. Phone (07) 3368 3977.


  • headspace Website for the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, which aims to support Australian young people with mental health and related problems.
  • Queensland Health website for information and support for those caring for someone with a mental illness.
  • Kids Help Line online counseling available for young people.
  • Living is for everyone Australian government suicide prevention strategy website.
  • Raising children Practical, expert child health and parenting information and activities
  • ReachOut Interactive forum for young people to access support and assistance.
  • For Teens - AWCH Information and resources for young people about health and well-being issues.


Information in this fact sheet is intended as a guide only. Although every effort was made at the time of printing to ensure the accuracy of information, Queensland Health does not accept responsibility for change in service details. Queensland Health accepts no responsibility for the way in which this fact sheet is used. In addition, quality of service provision is the responsibility of individual service providers.

Health Insite: 

If you are in a emergency situation, call 000


  • Get qualified health advice 24/7 for the cost of a local call. 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84)
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Last updated
17/10/2017 3:11:56 PM

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