What is ADHD?

ADHD is a pattern of behaviour that reduces a person’s level of performance and functioning in many settings, such as school, home and work. ADHD symptoms occur in most cultures in about 5% of children and 2.5% of adults.

General ADHD Symptoms

ADHD symptoms generally fall into two categories:

  • Inattention – lack of attention to detail, difficulties organising oneself to start, continue and complete tasks, poor working memory, problems maintaining attention, distractible
  • Hyperactivity/impulsivity – overly talkative, unable to remain seated in appropriate situations, extreme restlessness, impatience

An ADHD diagnosis should specify a person’s presentation type, depending on the category most of their symptoms fall into or a combination of the two. This is known as combined inattentive/hyperactive-impulsive. This presentation may fluctuate with age, so this specification captures such changes. An ADHD diagnosis should also indicate the severity level (mild, moderate or severe), which is rated based on the extent of the person’s impairment and the number of ADHD symptoms present.

How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

ADHD symptoms emerge prior to age 12 and can continue into adulthood. Most ADHD diagnoses are made during childhood, as ADHD symptoms usually lead to social and academic difficulties. When a child presents for assessment, a qualified health professional (usually a paediatrician or child psychologist) will gather information about the child’s health history, behaviour and environment.

The diagnostic process involves determining whether the child meets criteria for ADHD, as well as ruling out alternative explanations for symptoms, as certain situations or health conditions can cause children to exhibit temporary behaviours similar to ADHD symptoms. The specialist should also examine school and medical records and speak with the child’s teachers, parents and other carers. This comprehensive approach enables the specialist to determine whether the child’s home or school environments appear overly stressful, as environmental disruption can also cause inattentive and hyperactive behaviours in children.

How Is ADHD Managed?

Treatments for ADHD include medications, behavioural therapy and psychoeducation for children and parents. Often ADHD will be managed using a combination of some or all of these approaches. With treatment, most people with ADHD can increase their success and productivity at home, school and work. However, there is currently no absolute ‘cure’ for ADHD.


Medication may reduce ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, and improve physical coordination, focus, and the ability to work and learn. A variety of ADHD medications are available and not all will suit every child, as side effects and positive responses vary. Caregivers and health professionals must closely monitor any medicated child in order to determine the suitability of the medication they are taking.

Behavioural Therapy

Behavioural therapy aims to facilitate behaviour change, and may involve practical assistance (e.g., help organising tasks) or assistance with working through emotionally challenging events. It also teaches children to be more aware of their own behaviour and to engage in self-praise for acting appropriately. Parents and teachers are encouraged to provide positive or negative feedback for particular behaviours. In addition, rules, chore lists and other routines can assist children with ADHD in order to reduce problematic behaviours.


Psychologists may educate children with ADHD in social skills, such as waiting, sharing, requesting help or responding to negative comments from others. Learning how to read facial expressions, tone of voice, and respond appropriately is also involved. Psychologists may educate parents about ADHD symptoms and behaviours and how it impacts a family. They will also assist the child and their parents in order to develop new skills, attitudes and methods of relating to one another. Psychologists can assist family members in order to find better ways to respond to disruptive behaviours and to facilitate behaviour changes.

Finding ADHD Assistance In Canberra

If you believe that you or someone in your family is showing ADHD symptoms, talk to your GP, psychologist or a trained child psychologist. If you live in the Canberra region, please contact Strategic Psychology to arrange a consultation on 02 6108 3432.

Reference: American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.

If you believe that you or someone in your family may have ADHD…


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.

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