Supporting a child or young person with ADHD

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder - (neuro - to do with the brain; developmental - present from an early age). It means that people find it difficult to concentrate, and may appear hyperactive and impulsive.

Most symptoms of ADHD begin in childhood. Signs of ADHD occur in multiple settings (home, school and social life) and continue into adulthood. The difficulties experienced and the impact they have on wellbeing and how a young person functions and copes will vary from person to person, it can be managed through a combination of support.

Signs and symptoms

Young people often present with several of the following signs and symptoms:


  • Starts tasks but not finish them.
  • Appears to not listen or focus even in conversation or when spoken to directly.
  • Makes simple mistakes when working and playing.
  • Loses interest in activities quickly.
  • Easily distracted.
  • Poor organisation and planning skills.


  • On the go most of the time, rarely sits down or rests.
  • Excessively fidgety.
  • Difficulties getting to or staying asleep.


  • Difficulties with waiting and taking turns.
  • Interrupts others during conversation.
  • Excessive talking.
  • Appearing fearless or unaware of risks, safety and consequences.



Top tips

  • Although living with a young person with ADHD can be difficult at times, it's important to remember it is not their fault and they are not deliberately being disobedient or naughty.
  • Keep a regular routine, plan your day and be organised.
  • Break down into steps and focus on one task at a time. A picture based timetable may help the young person remember what they have to do and what they need with them for the different tasks.
  • Set clear behaviour boundaries and expectations. Use positive rewards to encourage the behaviour you want more of, use appropriate consequences that you can follow with consistently for unwanted behaviour.
  • Be clear and exact when you give instructions (for example, instead of 'can you tidy up?' ask 'can you put your toys in the the toy box?').
  • Focus on one activity/instruction at a time.
  • Keep activities short and alternate enjoyable activities with more difficult or boring tasks.
  • Encourage hobbies and interests that they are good at to build confidence and self-esteem.
  • Ensure a consistent bedtime routine which is calming and not overstimulating (avoid phones/TV/tablet usage before bed and in bed).
  • Speak to your child's school or college about additional support.
  • Use visual aids to support routine.
  • Try placing the younger person into a calmer setting.
  • Praise effort as much as achievement.

Further help

  • Speak to your child's/young person's school.
  • Speak to your doctor.
  • Look at your local authorities local offer website.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Hide this section
Show accessibility tools