What is ADHD?
As the name suggests, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition marked by persistent difficulties with inattention AND/OR overly active and impulsive behaviour. ADHD is one of the most common mental health disorders in young Australians. Between 5-10% of children and adolescents in Australia are diagnosed with the disorder.
Many, if not most, children demonstrate high energy levels and difficulty focusing their attention at times. In contrast, kids with ADHD have substantial and ongoing difficulties in social, academic, and daily-life functioning as a result of their condition.
ADHD is caused by atypical brain functioning and development. Symptoms tend to persist throughout the lifetime; however, many of these can be managed effectively and may alleviate with age.
Types of ADHD
Children with ADHD may fall into one of three categories:
- Inattentive type - difficulty directing and maintaining attention. Without invasive behavioural problems, these kids may fly under the radar or can be misdiagnosed, leading to a lack of appropriate support.
- Hyperactive/Impulsive type - difficulty managing behaviour, urges and energy levels. These kids are often referred for support once their symptoms begin to affect social relationships and/or academic performance.
- Combined type - these kids have difficulty with attention and hyperactivity.
Signs and Symptoms
- lack of task-focus
- difficulty sustaining attention
- makes careless mistakes
- doesn't follow instructions
- aversion to activities requiring focus (e.g., homework, reading, speeches)
- loses possessions
- poor organisation
Hyperactivity and Impulsivity:
- overly energetic
- difficulty sitting still
- excessive talking
- interrupts others
- poor self-control
- difficulty waiting his/her turn
- intrusive behaviour (eg. annoys others, takes control of activities)
Getting a Diagnosis
Children must be evaluated by either a paediatrician, psychiatrist or clinical psychologist to receive a formal ADHD diagnosis. A comprehensive psychological assessment is usually the most valid and reliable way to determine a diagnosis (and avoid a misdiagnosis).
NOTE: ADHD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder. There are no quick and easy check-lists or online quizzes to give you a valid diagnosis.
Find out more about getting a diagnosis here.
Purpose of Assessment
The above symptoms are not exclusive to ADHD and may be explained by a number of alternative causes. It is important to explore and rule-out other possible causes before diagnosing a child with ADHD.
Without a comprehensive assessment, children may be misdiagnosed and mismanaged. Clinical testing provides families with a thorough understanding of what is going on for their child and guides them towards the most effective, evidence-based treatment strategies.
Free Online Screening Tests
These questionnaires will not give you a diagnosis but may indicate a need for further testing.
Children with ADHD tend to show greater levels of defiance compared to non-ADHD children. Read more about oppositional behaviours here or try the defiance test below.