Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a learning difficulty caused by a neurobehavioural disorder, and is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children. 

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a subtype of ADHD.  The term ‘ADD’ was formally changed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) to ‘ADHD predominantly inattentive’, although ‘attention deficit disorder’ remains widely used.

Symptoms often found include the following:

  • Short attention span, or being easily distracted
  • Restlessness, or constant fidgeting
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsiveness

Many people with ADHD also experience additional problems such as sleep disorders, and may have further learning difficulties caused by their difficulty with holding attention.

ADHD has no effect on intelligence, but some people with a learning disability may also have ADHD.

Children will usually be diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist, based on specific criteria. Adults are harder to diagnose because there is no definitive set of age-appropriate symptoms.

Approximately two in five children with ADHD will continue to have difficulties past the age of 18.

How it affects people

The effects of ADHD on children can be very disruptive at both school and home. While their intellect may be normal or advanced, more than half of children with ADHD have additional specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia.

People with ADHD may experience low self-esteem or underachievement due to the difficulties involved in managing their symptoms.
They are also more likely to be depressed, anxious, or obsessive, and they may have problems with speech, language and coordination.

People with ADHD need high levels of stimulation, so often find working in a constantly-moving environment beneficial.
When properly motivated or working on something of particular interest to them, they are able to maintain a high attention to detail and a consistent work ethic.

How many people have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

It is estimated that the condition affects 2-5% of school-aged children and young people.  It is up to four times more common in male children than in female children.

Our work at the Foundation focuses primarily on people with learning disabilities as opposed to people with specific learning difficulties. For more information about this condition we suggest you contact an organisation which specialises in these conditions, like the National Attention Disorder Information Support Service.