ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

On this page you will be able to find access to the following information as well as some other useful links that you might find helpful:

  • An overview of what ADHD is and how it affects different people
  • Some answers to the more frequently asked questions about ADHD
  • A list of useful contacts and support groups
  • Some information about Disability Living Allowance and PIP
  • A form to register your child with the Children’s Disability Register
  • Some information about our service and the support we can offer

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is the term used to describe three main kinds of behavioural problem in children:

  • overactive behaviour (hyperactivity)
  • impulsive behaviour
  • difficulty in paying attention

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What is ADHD?

All young children have lots of energy and like to be active. Young children also tend to have a short attention span - they soon get tired of an activity and want to move on to something new. So how can you know whether your child has ADHD or is just restless or bored?

Children with ADHD are not just very active; they also have a wide range of other problem behaviours that can make them very difficult to care for, manage and teach. Because they are overactive and impulsive, children with ADHD often find it difficult to fit in at school. They may also have problems getting on with other children. These difficulties can continue as they grow up, particularly if children and families do not get the help they need. Some children have significant problems with concentration and attention, but are not overactive or impulsive. These children are sometimes described as having Attention 2 Deficit Disorder (ADD), rather than ADHD. ADD can easily be missed because the child may be quiet and dreamy rather than disruptive.

ADHD and ADD are not related to intelligence. Children with all levels of ability can have them.

What causes ADHD?

The causes of ADHD are still not fully known. It is believed to be caused by poor transmission of messages in the brain, and in particular by low levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which carry messages from one neuron to another. These neurotransmitters are particularly associated with attention, organisation and managing emotions.

Do children grow out of ADHD?

Some children grow out of ADHD; others have problems that continue into adolescence and beyond. Approximately two out of five children with ADHD continue to have difficulties at age 18. The main symptoms of ADHD, such as attention difficulties, may improve as children get older, but behavioural problems such as disobedience or aggression may become worse if a child does not receive help. In particular, boys who are hyperactive and aggressive tend to become unpopular with other children. It is therefore very important for children to receive help as early as possible, to prevent them from getting socially isolated and from developing other emotional and behaviour problems that can persist into adult life.

Does medication help?

ADHD is often treated with stimulant medication, which can produce short-term benefits for many children with ADHD. The theory is that medication can either reduce the uptake or increase the production of the neurotransmitters, so increasing the levels in the brain.

Medication does not cure ADHD – it can only reduce a child’s difficulties. The aim is to give children some relief from the symptoms, so they calm down, are better able to make friends and manage their emotions, learn more easily and are more responsive to other people. Children may become less aggressive as well as less hyperactive, and their performance at school may improve significantly. Once they are having fewer problems in their family, school and social lives, the hope is they can learn to manage their own behaviour better without the help of drugs. However there are concerns that these drugs may be used too quickly to deal with behaviours that are not due to ADHD/ADD at all; the child may be simply over-boisterous or unruly or difficult to manage for other reasons to do with their family and environment. Also, they are very powerful drugs – some are classed as amphetamines – and can carry other health risks:

  • the long-term effects of stimulants on young, developing brains are still not fully known
  • children and adults with existing heart conditions are at risk of heart attacks if they take stimulant medications
  • stimulants can trigger or exacerbate hostility, aggression, anxiety, depression and paranoia – anyone with a personal or family history of suicide, depression or bi-polar disorder is at very high risk and should be closely monitored
  • stimulant abuse is an increasingly common problem among young people – young people use them to give them a boost when preparing for exams, and to help lose weight

The reported side effects of stimulant medication for ADHD/ADD include some of the problems for which they are prescribed. They include: restlessness, difficulty sleeping, irritability and mood swings, depression, loss of appetite, headaches, upset stomach, dizziness, racing heartbeat and tics.

For these reasons, stimulant medication should only be prescribed to children who have been professionally assessed and diagnosed by an expert, and should be reviewed regularly.

Non-medical ways of managing ADHD include exercise, healthy diet, sleep management and behavioural therapies.


The first thing parents need to know is that ADHD is not your fault – you are not a ‘bad parent’. The second is that there are things you can do to help your child to manage their behaviour. There are now a number of behaviour management programmes run by professionals to help parents. You can learn ways of talking, playing and working with your child that can improve their attention and behaviour. These techniques can also be very helpful for other carers and friends, not just parents.


There are many ways in which teachers can organise the classroom, lessons and behaviour to help children with ADHD. Minimising distractions can help – seat children with ADHD away from windows, and don’t put groups of pupils together round one large table. Include a variety of activities during each lesson, and alternate physical and sitting-down activities. Set short, achievable targets and give immediate rewards when the child completes the task.

Useful contacts

In addition to related links and services provided, some other useful contacts are listed below:

A term-time playgroup for children with additional needs and their siblings, aged 3-9.

Saturday Playgroup
Sheffield Volunteering
The Union, University of Sheffield
Western Bank
S10 2TG

Tel: 0114 222 8547 (Helen Giorgi)

Offers information and advice to parents/carers of children with ADHD who attend the Ryegate Centre.

Ryegate Children’s Centre
Tapton Crescent Road
S10 5DD

Tel: 0114 271 7640

ADHD Frequently Asked Questions

Sourced from

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a genetically determined condition that affects those parts of the brain that control attention, impulses and concentration. It is thought to affect 3 to 7% of school age children. The best description for ADHD is that a child who suffers from this condition shows disruptive behaviours which cannot be explained by any other psychiatric condition and are not in keeping with those of the same-aged people with similar intelligence and development. These behaviours are usually first noticed in early childhood, and they are more extreme than simple “misbehaving”. Children with ADHD have difficulty focussing their attention to complete a specific task. Additionally they can be hyperactive and impulsive and can suffer from mood swings and “social clumsiness”.

ADHD develops in childhood and is most commonly noticed at the age of 5.1 Research suggests that 80% of children diagnosed with ADHD continue to experience symptoms during adolescence and 67% continue to have symptoms into adulthood.

The symptoms of ADHD (impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention) are not seen to the same degree in all people diagnosed with this condition. As a result, clinicians recognise three types of people with ADHD2: - The mostly (predominantly) hyperactive-impulsive type The mostly (predominantly) inattentive type The combined type (which make up the majority of ADHD cases) There is also a fourth type, which does not fit into any of the three categories and which healthcare professionals classify as ADHD not otherwise specified.

ADHD has multiple causes. However the evidence so far shows that it is not caused by poor parenting, rather, it is caused by a complicated combination of factors. These factors include changes in those parts of the brain which control impulses and concentration (neurobiological factors) and genetic, inherited and environmental factors.

ADHD has a significant genetic component: most differences in severity of symptoms are due to genetic factors. For example, if a family has one ADHD child, there is a 30-40% chance that another brother/sister will also have the condition and a 45% chance (or greater) that at least one parent has the condition1. If the child with ADHD has an identical twin, the likelihood that the twin will also have the disorder is about 90%.1 Other research has suggested that in a small percentage of cases, ADHD can be due to injury (during development) to specific regions of the brain. For example, use of alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy, premature delivery with associated minor brain bleeding or accidental head injury after birth, could all cause ADHD-like symptoms. ADHD is not associated with purely social factors such as poor parenting (child management), family stress, divorce, excessive TV viewing or video game playing, or diet, although some of these factors can exacerbate a pre-existing condition.

There are typically four steps in the management of ADHD:

  • Proper diagnostic evaluation by an experienced psychiatrist or paediatrician
  • Information provided for parents and teachers
  • Discussions between healthcare professional and parents and teachers on behavioural therapy and educational support (such as special educational services)
  • Medication

Most experts agree that the most effective way to treat ADHD is with several complimentary approaches. An effective treatment plan will involve a combination of treatments such as psychiatry, psychology, appropriate educational interventions, behavioural therapy and medication. Depending on the needs of the individual child, a combination of medical, teaching and behavioural support can help the child to reach his/her full potential and live as normal a life as possible, having meaningful relationships and reducing family stress.

There is no specific test for ADHD but it is important that a psychiatrist or paediatrician makes a diagnostic evaluation. If you suspect that your child or a child you know has ADHD you may wish to alert their parent or teacher, so that s/he can be referred early and so that the condition can be identified. This will enable treatment (whether behavioural, psychological or medication) to be started, to help the child to achieve their full potential.

ADHD is diagnosed by a healthcare professional, usually a child psychiatrist or paediatrician. However a team of people may be involved in the steps to diagnosis and decisions regarding therapy. These people can include:

  • Child psychiatrist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Child psychologist
  • Paediatrician
  • Paediatric neurologist
  • Psychiatric social worker
  • Educational psychologist
  • Specialists in speech and language, auditory processing occupational therapy etc
  • Teacher
  • GP
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