ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

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ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

It’s not always easy to determine if a toddler has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) since most are often highly active and tend to have difficulty paying attention.

But ADHD is more than just typical toddler behaviour and recognising the signs in early childhood is vital.

What is ADHD?

According to the NHS, ADHD is a behavioural disorder that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Many children go through phases where they're restless or inattentive and it doesn't necessarily mean they have ADHD.

But parents should raise concerns with their child's Early Years practitioner, teacher, school special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or GP if they think their youngster's behaviour may be different from most others their age.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

The symptoms in children are well defined, usually noticeable before the age of six, and occur in more than one situation, such as at home and nursery.

They are categorised into two types of behavioural problems - inattentiveness, and hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Most children with ADHD have problems that fall into both categories.


  • having a short attention span and being easily distracted
  • making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork
  • appearing forgetful or losing things
  • being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
  • appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions
  • constantly changing activity or task
  • having difficulty organising tasks

Hyperactivity and impulsiveness:

  • being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
  • constantly fidgeting
  • being unable to concentrate on tasks
  • excessive physical movement
  • excessive talking
  • being unable to wait their turn
  • acting without thinking
  • interrupting conversations
  • little or no sense of danger

Some children may also have signs of other problems or conditions alongside ADHD such as anxiety or conduct disorder, depression, epilepsy and dyslexia.

What causes ADHD?

The exact cause is not fully understood, although a combination of factors is thought to be responsible including genetics - ADHD tends to run in families - and brain function and structure.

Other factors suggested as potentially having a role in ADHD include being born prematurely (before the 37th week of pregnancy) or with a low birth weight, having epilepsy and suffering brain damage either in the womb or a severe head injury later in life.

How is ADHD treated?

Although there's no cure, treatment can help relieve the symptoms and make the condition much less of a problem in day-to-day life.

Medication or therapy can be used, but a combination of both is often most effective.


If you want to learn more about ADHD then our CPD short course of the same title, is the perfect learning tool.

Suitable for those working with children and young people, it explains how to spot the signs and symptoms of ADHD, understand the causes, and provide children, young people, and their families with accurate information and guidance.

The learner will also know where to go for help and support, and who to turn to for advice on managing symptoms.