Children with ADHD exhibit a variety of symptoms ranging from inattention to hyperactivity.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neuro-developmental disorder of self-control. As the name suggests, the symptoms of ADHD are characterised by serious and persistent difficulty in three areas, namely:

  • Inattention

  • Impulsivity

  • Hyperactivity

It is quite normal for children to be active, inattentive and impulsive. However, children have difficulties in the above areas when these behaviours:

  • are severe and persistent

  • occur across more than one situation, for example, at home, school, the supermarket

  • impair their performance at school and their relationships with others.

Children who exhibit such behaviours may be suffering from ADHD. The condition affects children and teenagers and can continue into adulthood.

Signs and symptoms

Children with ADHD exhibit a variety of symptoms. According to diagnostic criteria, the symptoms must have started before the age of seven and be evident for at least six months.

With inattention, the child:

  • often fails to give close attention to details

  • often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities

  • is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli

  • is often forgetful in daily activities

  • often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly

  • makes careless mistakes in schoolwork or other activities

  • often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores or duties

  • often has difficulty organising tasks and activities

  • often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort

  • often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (toys, school assignments, pencils or books).

With hyperactivity and impulsivity, the child:

  • often fidgets or squirms in the seat

  • often leaves his seat in the classroom or in other situations where remaining seated is expected

  • often runs about or climbs excessively in situations where it is inappropriate

  • often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly

  • is often ‘on the go’ or often acts as if he is ‘driven by a motor’

  • often talks excessively

  • often blurts out answers before questions have been completed

  • often has difficulty waiting turns

  • often interrupts or intrudes on others.


There is no simple treatment. A multidisciplinary approach is most effective. This includes:


Medicine changes the brain chemistry so that the brain may function in a more orderly manner. As a child’s concentration improves and hyperactivity lessens, the child will find life more manageable and satisfying.

Help with behaviour management and organisation skills

Parents can help children structure and organise their life. Having a routine is essential. Parents may make use of concrete reminders, such as lists, schedules and alarm clocks to help break down homework activities into small steps. Use of small, frequent and constantly repeated incentives and feedback increase children’s awareness of what they are doing. Positive results are encouraged in this way. 

Training parents to elicit desired behaviour

Training parents helps them to elicit the desired behaviour they want in their children. As children with ADHD often feel they can do nothing right or well, helping children experience success by discovering what they are good at will foster their confidence and competence.

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Contributed by:

Health Promotion Board's Parent Hub