If you have attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), you may have lots of energy and find it difficult to concentrate. It can be hard to control your actions. People are normally born with ADHD and often other people in the family will have had similar difficulties especially when they were children. It doesn’t mean that you are bad or that you parents haven’t brought you up properly. It is also possible for young people to grow out of ADHD during teenage years because the brain of teenagers are still developing and therefore the brain chemical imbalance can correct itself. However some young people continue to have ADHD throughout their adult lives.
ADHD is the most common behavioural disorder in children. Parents often start noticing ADHD symptoms at about 18 months old, ADHD usually becomes more noticeable between the ages of 3 and 7. ADHD affects 3-5% of school aged children, usually there are one or two children with ADHD in every primary school class.
We don’t know what causes ADHD but experts think it runs in families. We do know that the symptoms of ADHD are caused by lower levels of the brain chemical called dopamine.
A related condition, ADD (attention deficit disorder) has similar symptoms, but there is less hyperactivity and the main problem is difficulty concentrating.
For ADHD to be diagnosed you have to have difficulties both at home and at school (you can’t switch ADHD on or off) it is something that is present all of the time.)
Three main symptoms of ADHD include:
- Inattention- having difficulties concentrating. This might mean you have difficulty following instructions or you forget instructions. You skip from task to task and can be disorganised e.g. forgetting pencil case, bags, books etc.
- This is about feeling restless all the time, fidgety; always fiddling, touching things, finding it difficult to sit still or remain in your seat, feeling like you have lots of energy, wanting to run around.
- Impulsiveness- this might be speaking of acting without thinking or finding it difficult to take turns or to wait your turn. It might also mean losing your temper easily.
Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by ADHD. It’s important to talk to your GP and if they think your difficulties could be ADHD they can refer you to the Community Paediatric Service to be assessed.
Often children and young people often do not recognise that they have ADHD, worries about problems with behaviour at home and school are often highlighted by parents and teachers. They will then need to speak to a GP and provide the GP with information from both home and school that makes them think that ADHD may be causing their child’s problems. The GP can then refer on to the Community Paediatric Service.
The ADHD assessment will be carried out either by a Community Paediatrician or a Specialist ADHD Nurse. There is not a simple test to assess for ADHD however Paediatrician or Specialist Nurse will ask about your difficulties throughout your childhood. They will ask your school and parents to complete a questionnaire and get more information from school e.g. school reports etc. to see if you have had problems with learning and behaviour since starting school.
ADHD affects children and young people at home, in the community and at school, therefore they benefit from support from parents, health and education.
Children and young people should have a Single Assessment Framework (SAF) in place at school. A SAF is an assessment that helps identify what support is needed and puts together a plan of how those needs are going to be met. For school it might be about support being organised. At home parents receiving support about managing behaviour. And if medication is prescribed there will be support about monitoring medication and advice to parents and school.
If you have ADHD then your school Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) should be looking at the support you need and talking to all your teachers to ensure they are supporting you in the best way in your lessons.
Medication, behavioural therapy, counselling, family meetings and special educational support can all help children and young people with ADHD.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) are community teams across Bristol and South Gloucestershire who help children and young people with mental health difficulties. CAMHS do not accept referrals for children and young people with ADHD therefore referrals for ADHD should always be sent to the Community Paediatricians. CAMHS do work with children and young people with ADHD if they develop mental health problems e.g. anxiety and depression.
The CAMHS psychiatrists also support the Community Paediatricians with young people with very complex difficulties.
Schools employ a range of people to look after your wellbeing. Some of the titles of these staff may vary in your school but you will be able to find out about them from a teacher.
Most schools have a nurse who either have a drop-in clinic or appointments you can make to see them. They can provide information about mental health and emotional wellbeing, and can help you access further support if this is needed. http://cchp.nhs.uk/cchp/explore-cchp/school-health-nursing
Off the Record: free and confidential one-to-one and group mental health support for 11-18 year olds, in schools and community settings. Young people can sign up online or find out more via the HUBS – www.otrbristol.org.uk, call 0808 808 9120 between 2 and 5pm, text 07896880011.
GP – you can make an appointment to visit your doctor or a nurse at the surgery to talk about any worries or concerns you have. Call your GP surgery to speak to the receptionist or go there in person. The receptionist will probably ask you who the appointment is for and why; this is to make sure that you see the right person at the right time. You don’t have to tell them why – you can just say it’s for something personal if you like.
ChildLine: free helpline for children and young people to talk about any problem 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk.
The Mix: telephone and email support for under 25s – freephone 0808 808 4994 (1pm-11pm) Text 80849 www.themix.org.uk.
Samaritans: if something is troubling you – call 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get self-help: free online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) resources – www.getselfhelp.co.uk.
www.adders.org – recommends books about educating children. There are also online games designed especially for young people with ADHD.
ADDISS – www.addiss.co.uk – The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service. ADDISS provides people-friendly information and resources about ADHD to anyone who needs assistance – parents, sufferers, teachers or health professionals. 020 8952 2800
A list of recommended books to help young people deal with a range of issues. All books can be reserved free of charge.
Putting on the Brakes: Understanding and Taking Control of ADD or ADHD by Patricia Quinn et al