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Caring for a child with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)

4-minute read

What is ADHD?

Children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) can have trouble concentrating, be overactive, and often do things on the spur of the moment. Their behaviour may cause problems at home and at school. Caring for a child with ADHD can be a challenge, but it’s easier with treatment and the right support.

It's normal for children to get distracted and to have lots of energy. But if their behaviour is extreme and starts to cause problems, they might have ADHD.

ADHD can impact your child’s social skills and learning. ADHD symptoms can persist in young people and adults. The good news is that ADHD can be treated using:

  • psychological and behavioural therapies
  • positive parenting techniques
  • classroom management measures
  • and, when necessary, medication

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

Children with ADHD might:

  • be easily distracted
  • have trouble listening or concentrating
  • forget instructions
  • interrupt regularly
  • be constantly moving or fidgeting
  • struggle to do things quietly

How is ADHD diagnosed?

See your doctor if you think your child might have ADHD.

ADHD is difficult to diagnose because there is no simple test and ADHD often overlaps with other medical and behavioural conditions.

Your doctor might refer you to a paediatrician, a psychologist or a child psychiatrist for diagnosis.

The earlier ADHD is diagnosed, the better. Keep in mind that some health professionals might hesitate to diagnose ADHD in children under 5 years of age. This is because children develop and change very quickly at this early stage of life.

What to do if your child is diagnosed with ADHD

Having a child with ADHD can have a big impact on you, other children and the rest of your family.

If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, you can work with health professionals to develop a management plan.

Discuss your plan with other members of your family and any carers or friends that spend time with your child.

How to help your child's behaviour

There are things that you can do to help improve your child's behaviour.

  • Make sure your child eats well and has enough sleep.
  • Keep to a daily routine.
  • Let your child know if there is going to be a change in routine.
  • Give clear instructions.
  • Get down to your child’s level and keep eye contact when giving important information.
  • Try to go out every day so your child can use up energy.
  • Have rest breaks during activities.
  • Give lots of praise for good behaviour and achievements.
  • If possible, have regular time when you and your child doing something enjoyable.

For behaviour you’d like to discourage:

  • try to ignore minor, attention-seeking behaviours
  • explain the consequences for negative behaviour
  • choose consequences you can follow through with
  • try to use logical and immediate consequences (linked to something that day rather than on the weekend)

What help is available?

Your doctor will talk to you about treatment for ADHD in children.

If you need advice or emotional support, talk to a Pregnancy Birth and Baby maternal child care nurse on 1800 882 436.

Other resources that may be useful include:

More information

The Raising Children Network website features Behaviour Toolkits. It also has information on managing ADHD in children aged 5 to 11 years of age, some of which may also be useful in younger children.

Find out more about ADHD on the Raising Children Network website.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022

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Need more information?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - Brain Foundation

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour, and attention problems, often diagnosed in childhood.

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in childhood - Better Health Channel

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural disorder, not an illness or a sign of low intelligence.

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ADHD symptoms and diagnosis -

Children with ADHD can have problems with inattention (difficulty concentrating), hyperactivity and impulsivity (lack of self-control).

Read more on MyDoctor website

ADHD & NDIS Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania - ADHD Foundation

ADHD and the NDIS is a regular question answered here at the National ADHD Foundation helpdesk. Here at ADHD Foundation Headquarters we expect to provide an update again in July 2021 when new information becomes available. Read more.

Read more on ADHD Foundation Australia website

ADHD: children & teens | Raising Children Network

When difficulties with attention, hyperactivity and impulse control interfere with everyday life, it might be ADHD. Start by taking your child to the GP.

Read more on website

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) - Better Health Channel

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Caring for a child with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

Children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are often angry and argumentative. Find out about treatments for ODD and how to manage challenging behaviour.

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Neurodiversity, neurodivergence & children | Raising Children Network

Neurodiversity is the idea that there’s natural variation in how brains work. Embracing neurodiversity is good for neurodivergent children and society too.

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