Skip to content
Home » Free Resources » Understanding ADHD in Children and Young People

Understanding ADHD in Children and Young People

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) shapes the experiences of countless children and young people. It’s not merely a ‘disorder’ but an integral aspect of an individual’s identity, deserving of recognition and respect. Within the neurodiversity paradigm, ADHD should be celebrated for its diverse manifestations and strengths.

What is ADHD?

ADHD presents itself in three primary subtypes: hyperactive, inattentive, and mixed. Each presentation has distinct characteristics and symptoms, influencing how individuals with ADHD interact with their environment and navigate daily life.

Hyperactive ADHD

The hyperactive presentation of ADHD is characterised by prominent symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Individuals with this presentation often display high levels of physical activity, restlessness, and an inability to stay still or sit quietly. They may also act impulsively, making decisions without considering the consequences, interrupting others, or blurting out answers before questions are fully asked. Hyperactive symptoms can be readily observable and may impact social interactions, academic performance, and overall functioning.

Inattentive ADHD

The inattentive presentation of ADHD is marked by difficulties with attention and focus, without significant hyperactive or impulsive behaviours. Individuals with this presentation may struggle to sustain attention on tasks or activities, frequently make ‘careless’ mistakes, and have difficulty organising tasks or activities. They may appear forgetful, easily distracted, and disorganised. Inattentive symptoms often go unnoticed or are wrongly mistaken for laziness or lack of effort, particularly in academic or work settings.

Hyperactive and Inattentive (Mixed) ADHD

The mixed presentation of ADHD combines symptoms of both hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention. Individuals with this presentation may exhibit a combination of restless behaviour, impulsivity, distractibility, and difficulty sustaining attention. They may struggle with time management, planning, and completing tasks, while also experiencing challenges in regulating their impulses and controlling their behaviour. The mixed presentation often presents unique challenges, as individuals may face difficulties across multiple domains of functioning.

It’s important to note that ADHD is a complex and heterogeneous condition, and individuals may experience symptoms to varying degrees. Additionally, symptoms may change over time or in different contexts. Accurate diagnosis and understanding of the specific presentation of ADHD are crucial for providing appropriate support and interventions tailored to the individual’s needs.

What can ADHD in children and young people look like?

Varying attention styles

Children and young people with ADHD exhibit a dynamic range of attention styles, from intense focus on areas of interest to challenges in sustaining attention on mundane tasks. Understanding these variations and finding ways to support them allows us to appreciate their unique ways of engaging with the world.

Hyperactivity as energy

Hyperactivity, often misconstrued as disruptive behaviour, is a manifestation of boundless energy in children and young people with ADHD. Rather than viewing it negatively, we can reframe hyperactivity as a source of vitality and enthusiasm, to be channelled into constructive pursuits.

Impulsivity and spontaneity

Impulsivity, though presenting challenges in decision-making and self-regulation, also fosters spontaneity and creativity. Embracing these traits encourages a culture of innovation and daring exploration, where children and young people with ADHD can thrive.

Multifaceted talents

ADHD is often accompanied by a myriad of talents and strengths, ranging from hyperfocus on specific interests to a knack for thinking outside the box. Nurturing these talents cultivates a sense of purpose and achievement, empowering individuals to harness their full potential.

A need for supportive environments

Creating supportive environments is paramount in empowering children and young people with ADHD to flourish. By adopting neuro-affirming approaches, such as providing structure, flexibility, and understanding, we foster a culture of acceptance and inclusion. By adopting neuro-affirming language and perspectives, we honour the diverse ways in which individuals experience the world, enabling us to celebrate the brilliance of children and young people with ADHD, who are often highly intelligent, driven, and dedicated to mastering the activities they enjoy.

Understanding ADHD in children and young people is a journey of empathy, appreciation, and acceptance. ADHD, with its complexities and nuances, enriches our collective tapestry, contributing to a society that thrives on diversity and inclusivity. In embracing neurodiversity, we acknowledge the intrinsic value of every individual, regardless of their neurotype. Together, we can build a future where every child and young person is empowered to shine brightly.