Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder that begins in early childhood. Children with ADHD may find it hard to concentrate and may become hyperactive — to the point where the condition can interfere with their schooling, friendships or family life.
All children show the symptoms of ADHD to some degree. It is normal for children to get restless and distracted from time to time, and to be active and have lots of energy.
A lot of children who have behaviour problems and difficulty concentrating do not have ADHD or they may be suffering from only a mild form of ADHD. The challenge for parents and health professionals is to recognise the difference between normal behaviour problems and ADHD symptoms, which require early treatment.
The number of diagnoses of ADHD is increasing, and the reasons for this are unknown. The increase may, however, be at least partly explained by better recognition. There are a lot of behavioural and developmental disorders that can cause symptoms of ADHD in young children, so it's important to have a proper assessment. Other reasons for children being inattentive, impulsive or hyperactive are health or emotional problems, learning difficulties or lack of sleep.
There are strict criteria used to diagnose ADHD. If your child has 6 or more symptoms for at least 6 months to a degree that it interferes with their everyday life, they may be diagnosed with ADHD.
The good news is that ADHD is treatable. Psychological and behavioural therapies, positive parenting techniques and medicine can all be effective. The right treatment plan, including support from parents, schools and health professionals, can help children with ADHD to improve their attention and behaviour. Many children with ADHD go on to do well, both at school and socially.
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Last reviewed: September 2018