Help Me – my child is ADHD – what does that mean?

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So……. “ADHD” stands for “Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder” and consists of a cluster of particular behaviours (called symptoms) such as Impulsiveness, Inattention and Hyperactivity.  Every child is unique and a little different…. however, so some children have difficulty paying attention, while other children can pay attention to some things (that have their interest) and not to other things.  Some children have difficulty listening, or remembering instructions.  Other children may daydream and have many gaps in their learning. Other kids are impulsive and active, with some quite challenging behaviours.


If your child has been given this diagnosis, then it is more than likely that a Dr or Paediatrician was involved.  Often a Psychologist is also involved in the assessment of a child with this behavioural condition.  For example, our clinic often receives a referral letter from the Paediatrician asking for a Cognitive Assessment (eg what is often known as an “Intelligence Test”) as this provides comprehensive information about the cognitive abilities of an  individual.  The results from this also assist in better understanding your child’s learning needs and ability, compared to other children.


In some cases, another diagnosis is more appropriate, hence the importance of the treating Professional to obtain a detailed history from the parent, regarding the child.  For example, anxiety, sleep difficulties and trauma can have similar symptoms to ADHD.  (Other children may have a diagnosis of Autism or you are told they are on the Autism Spectrum.)


In general however, the rates of ADHD vary in the population from 5-10%.  Generally boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed.  And there is often a family history associated, so maybe mum or dad has some of these characteristics.  It is common for some adults to have similar behaviours and be undiagnosed as ADHD.  And maybe, this is something that you had noticed in your family, and is what led to your child being assessed by a Professional.


Perhaps your child has trouble paying attention in class, difficulty listening to instructions, fidgety and restless…….even “bouncing off the walls”.  To obtain a diagnosis, this sort of behaviour needs to be occurring across different contexts and environments.  For example, you as the parent, as well as the teacher are noticing these behavioural challenges…….


If these difficulties are not managed, then the outcomes can have lifelong ramifications.  For example, learning difficulties, poor self esteem, behavioural problems or difficulties socially and in relationships.


There has been some controversy in the past regarding treatment for ADHD.  However, it is well known and research documented, that medication as prescribed by the Dr, can assist in significant improvements in your child’s functioning (meaning that their behaviour settles, they can pay attention AND will (quite likely) learn more).  Many children benefit from individual counselling (therapy, psychological services) as this can assist with emotion management, gaining strategies and other therapeutic benefits.


Other Resources:

Greenspan, S 2009 Overcoming ADHD. Helping your child become calm, engaged and focussed – without a pill.  Da Capo Press. USA

Drake Burns, D.  2005  Autism. Aspergers. ADHD. ADD>  A parents Roadmap to understanding and support. Future Horizons. Texas


Article by: 

Jay Anderson is a Psychologist and Counsellor in South west WA.  She specialises in providing therapy to children and their families. Check out


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