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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a developmental problem which results in poor concentration and control of impulses. It can affect children's learning and social skills, and also family functioning. It is not an illness. With medical treatment, understanding and care, a child with ADHD can live a normal life. About 3-5 of every 100 children in Australia have ADHD. It is much more common in boys than girls.
The diagnosis of ADHD must be made by a trained and experienced health professional, using information from both the family and the school. It is important to make sure the symptoms are not caused by something else, which may need different treatment.
Common signs and symptoms are:
It is important to remember that all young children have a limited attention span and sometimes do things without thinking. A diagnosis can only be made after a range of information is collected - especially by parents. The symptoms must be obvious in most areas of the child's life. There is no single test. If you are concerned about your child, see your GP who can arrange a referral to a paediatrician, or child psychiatrist to make the assessment.
At this point, stimulant medication is the single most effective treatment for the symptoms of ADHD. Stimulants became a standard treatment in the 1980s and approximately 1-2% of all Australian children are prescribed stimulant medication. Any side effects can usually be controlled with changes to the dose and strength.
See the factsheet: ADHD - Stimulant Medication
Positive parenting along with home and classroom strategies such as keeping structure, boosting self-esteem, building social skills and planning the physical and learning environment all help. Sometimes counselling for the child or the family is also needed.
See the factsheet: ADHD - ways to help children with ADHD
Produced by the Centre for Community Child Health and General Paediatrics. First published 2003. Updated September 2012.