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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Children can seem inattentive, because they are daydreaming or are easily distracted by something going on in their life. They may run around because they simply have energy to burn. Some children may not appear to have attention problems until they get to school and are required to pay attention during activities they have no interest in. The brains of children with ADHD work differently in some ways than people who don’t have ADHD.

In some school-aged children, however, there are kids for whom paying attention and sitting still is very difficult. They can focus on stuff they’re good at – but they have trouble focusing on things they find boring.Their behaviour frequently gets them into trouble at home, school and in the neighbourhood. It can affect their social skills and make it difficult for them to make and keep friends. As a result, they can experience sadness and low self-esteem or feelings of rejection. Their impulsive behaviour and lack of judgement may also bring them into conflict with the law. These children would benefit from seeing a health professional to find out whether they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD).

Symptoms of AD/HD

Inattention  Hyperactivity/Impulsivity 
  1. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  2. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  4. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to complete schoolwork, chores or duties (not due to oppositional behaviour or failure to understand instructions).
  5. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
  6. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework).
  7. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books or tools).
  8. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
  9. Is often forgetful in daily activities.
  1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  2. Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected.
  3. Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate; (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness).
  4. Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly.
  5. Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor.”
  6. Often talks excessively.
  7. Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
  8. Often has difficulty waiting for turn. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into games or conversations).

Sub-Types of AD/HD

Predominantly Inattentive Type - When a person displays 6 or more symptoms of inattention, but fewer than 6 symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, and the symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months.

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
 - When a person displays 6 or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, but fewer than 6 symptoms of inattention, and the symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months.

Combined Type
 - When a person displays 6 or more symptoms of inattention and 6 or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, and the symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months.

Most children and adolescents with AD/HD have the combined type.

Children with undiagnosed AD/HD are at risk for school failure. Many also have other common related problems such as anxiety, mood problems, and oppositional behaviour or conducdisorder. (see definition of Conduct Disorder). If their emotional and behavioural problems are not addressed and treated they could have higher rates of alcohol, nicotine and other drug abuse in adolescence due to self-medication.

AD/HD can be safely and successfully treated with a combination of medication and behavioural therapy. More than 150 quality studies have shown that medications are the best treatment for AD/HD symptoms. When the child is treated with medication, it allows for the second approach of behaviour therapy to be more effective. Parent training may also be helpful in managing some of the social problems associated with AD/HD. (Also see Social Skills Training information under Finding Support).

Adapted from the American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition

There are things that these children and youth, their parents and their teacher’s can do to make things work differently.

  1. Pretending to understand instructions when they didn’t.
    - Ask your teacher to repeat the instructions or the teacher can have them written down to give to the student.
  2. Not doing homework, finding other things to do instead of homework or getting distracted by the tv, the internet and cell phones
    Work in a quiet area with minimal distractions; teachers may consider less stimulation on the walls or sending homework lists home
  3. Jumping from one activity to another
    Start a regular routine and try to follow it every day for school work, home life and recreation.
  4. Being embarrassed and feeling frustrated or denying your ADHD.
    Take medications as prescribed and look at relaxation exercises.
  5. Forgetting important things like assignments, deadlines, etc.
    Either the teacher can write them down for you or you should get in the habit of writing down the dates yourself. Parents can review these lists and record also.


Links or Useful Resources for ADHD:
ADHD Parent Support Group KW- -
- 519-648-2942
Cambridge AD/HD Support Group – 519-624-7312 or e-mail: 
Canadian Mental Health Association -
Centre for ADD/ADHD Advocacy, Canada -
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) -
Child & Parent Research Institute – 1-519-858-2774 or
Children’s Mental Health Ontario -
Dr. Daniel G. Amen’s Clinic -
McMaster University’s Canchild Centre for Childhood Disability Research -
Offord Centre for Child Studies -
Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada -
Tourette Syndrome Plus -