Supporting Children

Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children

BY KK WOMEN'S AND CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

29 October 2020  |   4 min read

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder characterised by significant difficulties in inattention, hyperactivity, and impulse control, which arises from young age.

Signs of inattention include:

  • Easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds
  • Failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes
  • Rarely follows instructions carefully and completely
  • Losing or forgetting things like toys, pencils, books and tools needed for a task

Signs of hyperactivity include:

  • Restlessness and fidgeting
  • Excessive running and climbing
  • Being always on the move

Signs of impulsivity include:

  • Responding before understanding the whole question or instruction
  • Interrupting when others are talking
  • Having difficulty waiting their turn

Impact of ADHD

Children and adolescents with ADHD can experience persistent symptoms and functional impairments into adulthood. The impact of ADHD can be felt upon many aspects of an individual’s life including at home, school, in the workplace, and may affect the relationships with family, friends, teachers and colleagues.

Individuals with ADHD are at risk of having low self-esteem, disruptive behaviour, academic difficulties / failing exams and poor social skills. As an adult, they can have an increased risk of depression, anxiety and substance misuse.

Causes and Risk Factors

Why does a child have ADHD? Research has yet to detect a single cause for ADHD. Some possible factors related to the condition may include:

  • Family history of ADHD
  • Premature birth and low birth weight
  • Psychosocial stressors, such as chaotic family background can aggravate the severity of the conditions
  • Abnormalities found in brain chemistry and how the brain tracts function
  • Chemical toxins, such as lead poisoning

Managing your Child’s ADHD

ADHD can be managed via:

  • Occupational Therapy to manage sensory and social skill issues.
  • Consultation with Psychologist for Behavioural Therapy.
  • Use of Medications to manage the symptoms (e.g. Methyhenidate or Atomoxetine).

How parents can help

  • Let your child feel the support and love. Know that your child’s problems are not your fault and it is not caused by bad parenting. Acknowledge your child’s strengths, and validate each attempt he makes to succeed. Children with ADHD have low self-confidence and give up before they have a chance to succeed. Support and work along with your child to maintain their self-esteem. Reaffirm good efforts and mention positive qualities and tiny improvements.
  • To have consistent and structured home environment. Establish basic rules when your child is young and continue those rules into the teenage years. Implement rewards and consequences to motivate the child to succeed in his challenges.
  • Make a list to help your child manage his daily routine. Make a list of things to be done – Keep the list short and prioritise things that need to be done immediately. Use simple drawings or pictures if child has reading issues.

Remember your child may have difficulty with planning and remembering things for very long. To help them, use the four questions – What? Where? When? Why?

  • Instill self-discipline and a sense of responsibility. The child should have chores to do the same as any other child. Children with ADHD feels bored easily, thus you may want to give your child different chores each day.
  • Keep instructions short and simple. Some very active children will be able to follow only one simple instruction at a time.
  • Give reminders about chores and tasks. You can help by being patient in a loving way. Remember to make lists and keep calendars of the family activities and give advanced warnings about any changes. With proper incentives, reminders, monitoring and breakdown of tasks, responsible habits can be learned.
  • Ask for feedback, “Did that make sense?” Ask child to repeat to make sure he understood you.
  • Ask questions that encourage self-awareness, “Do you know what you just said / did?”.
  • Read up on ADHD to help you better manage his / her behaviour and difficulties.

For more information, please visit

The information on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is also available for download in pdf format.

This article is contributed by Children and Adolescent Mental Wellness Service, Department KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Images by Freepik.