ADHD in Children – What is it? Symptoms and who can diagnose?

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is one of the most prevalent diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders in Australia and affects 1 in every 20 Australian children.

Without appropriate diagnosis and evidence-based treatment, a child’s ADHD symptoms can have a profound impact on their life including schooling, friendships, self-esteem and family.

ADHD symptoms tend to present early in childhood. According to the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’(DSM-5-TR). ADHD can present in three ways.


Inattentive symptoms

  • Struggle to focus and concentrate on information or tasks
  • Experience mind-wandering
  • Interrupted by unrelated thoughts
  • Easily distracted by external stimuli
  • Miss instructions or relevant information
  • Struggle to pay attention to detail
  • Avoid tasks that require focus (e.g. school work)
  • Have trouble remembering information
  • Lose items.


Hyperactive- impulsive symptoms

  • Fidget, tap objects, restlessly wiggle legs and move around more than others
  • Talk excessively, blurt out answers or interrupt others
  • Respond quickly to situations without anticipating the consequences
  • On the go all the time
  • Find engaging in quiet activities difficult
  • Participates in more risk taking or dangerous behaviour.



  • Children with combined symptoms tend to display both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.


ADHD can have an impact on young people’s social skills, ability to regulate emotions, and their academic performance. Symptoms of ADHD can have a small, medium or big impact depending on the person.

“It can be stressful for families to navigate the day-to-day functional impacts and ensure that parenting practices are tailored to meet their child’s unique needs. In children with ADHD, executive functioning difficulties may cause problems in areas of problem-solving, self-regulation, planning, attention, memory, prioritisation of tasks, and ability to inhibit response” Brittni Sirett, Youthrive Clinical Psychologist explained.


“Individuals with ADHD also have many valuable strengths which may include creativity, hyperfocus, enthusiasm, social positivity”.


What to do if you suspect your child has ADHD?


If you are concerned that your child is presenting with symptoms of ADHD, we recommend taking these initial first steps:

  • Contact a paediatrician and complete an initial medical appointment. Your GP may support by making a referral to known paediatricians in your area.
  • Organise an initial intake with a psychologist who specialises in assessment and diagnosis of ADHD
  • Contact your child’s school and discuss any notable concerns


Before you seek a diagnosis it’s worth checking that your child meets the below criteria.


  • Present before the age of 12
  • Have 6 or more of the typical ADHD symptoms
  • Persisted for longer than 6 months across two settings (e.g. school/home)
  • Have negatively impacted academic, social and or occupational functioning.


Here are our top tips to support your child with ADHD.

  1. Establish structure and stick to it

Follow a routine by establishing simple and predicable rituals for meals, homework, play and bedtime.


  1. Set clear expectations and rules

Children with ADHD respond well to organised systems of reward and consequences. Write down rules and display where a child can easily read.


  1. Reward positive behaviour and ignore smaller negative behaviour

It’s important to acknowledge and reward achievements and positive behaviour regularly. When you see your child engaging in behaviours you want to encourage, provide them with positive attention and praise. Ignore smaller negative behaviours as constantly responding to them can impact self-esteem and self-worth or reinforce the behaviour (e.g. attention seeking).


How the team at Youthrive can help

 Our team at Youthrive are here to help support you and your child. Our team provides comprehensive ADHD assessments. These assessments are conducted by a psychologist in collaboration with external paediatricians.

A standard assessment may consist of a parent/caregiver interview, observation of the child at school or day care and administration of the Conners 3 ADHD ratings scales.

A cognitive assessment is often also completed as part of this comprehensive assessment. Our psychologists at Youthrive ensure that all assessments are tailored and so the initial appointment is spent getting to know the young person.

To meet with one of our psychologists, you can book an appointment online.

You can also seek support from your local GP, your child’s paediatrician, their school or educator.