The Difference Between ADHD And An Active Child

We hear a lot about ADHD as parents today. The diagnosis rate is rising and it seems that ADHD is the first thing on everyone’s mind when a child acts out. But does every child who acts out or every child who is super active need an ADHD diagnosis? Absolutely not. Kids are kids. Some may be more active than others. Some kids learn differently than others. If you are questioning whether your child is simply active or if it may be more, maybe ADHD, understanding symptoms of ADHD may be helpful.

ADHD is an acronym for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD is a psychological and biological condition, that impacts a child’s ability to focus. This means that no matter how much they want to pay attention to a task, their biological makeup prevents them from doing this for an extended period of time. This may surface when your child only shows a limited response to classic behavioural strategies like rewards and punishment. For example, a class may all sit and be quiet because they know they will receive a reward at the end of the day but a child with ADHD may not respond to this behavioural tool.

The most common and classic symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity. Inattention can look like a child who appears to not listen when being spoken to, has trouble staying organised, does not remember things or follow instructions, or gets easily distracted. Hyperactivity can look like a child who constantly fidgets or squirms, can’t sit still, talks excessively or has a short temper. Impulsive signs in a child may present as acting without thinking, guessing answers instead of thinking them through, temper tantrums, or interrupting conversations.

If these symptoms describe your child and you suspect ADHD, it will be important to work with your provider or psychologist to rule out other factors that may contribute to this behaviour:

  • Learning Disabilities: this could be a reason for difficulties at school
  • Major Life changes: a recent move, trauma, divorce
  • Other Psychological Disorders: anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder
  • Behavioural Disorders: such as oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder
  • Medical Conditions: thyroid problems, epilepsy, or sleep disorders

A child with ADHD and a child who is simply active may present in a similar way, but a distinguishing factor would be that a child who is simply active will be able to respond to behavioural interventions. These interventions may need to be altered for the child to respond but ultimately with the right rewards, motivation, activities of interest and negative reinforcement a child will be able to sustain elongated attention.

ADHD can be difficult to identify, so it is important to utilise the support of your health care provider or child psychologist.  They will be able to help you determine the best plan of action to help your child thrive in their environment. It is important to remember that with the right interventions and treatment, living with ADHD can be completely manageable. Your child can be incredibly successful navigating their world with ADHD, they just need the right tools to do so.

If you are concerned your child may have ADHD and would like to talk to a professional, book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Can A Psychologist “fix” your child?
Diagnosed: Benefits of receiving a DSM 5 Diagnosis
How is ADHD Assessed?

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