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How to Recognise ADHD Symptoms in Kids: A Parent’s Guide

May 4, 2023

ADHD symptoms in kids are common. In fact, around 1 in 20 Australians have ADHD. Every child will struggle to pay attention at least sometimes, so it can be challenging for parents to recognise the symptoms of ADHD in their child. Is it just the occasional normal attention lapse, or is it ADHD? What are ADHD symptoms in kids?

This guide will provide you with the tools and knowledge to identify and manage ADHD in your child, so they can thrive both at home and in school.

Understanding ADHD and its symptoms

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to focus, control impulses, and regulate behavior. Symptoms of ADHD can vary from child to child, but common signs include difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms must be present in multiple settings, such as at home and at school, and must interfere with the child’s daily functioning in order to be diagnosed as ADHD. It’s completely normal for a child to get distracted from time to time – it’s only when these symptoms intefere with learning and social relationships that health professionals should be involved.

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Recognising ADHD symptoms in kids

As a parent, it can be difficult to recognise ADHD symptoms in your child, especially since some of the signs can be mistaken for typical childhood behavior. Also, many behavioural and developmental disorders have symptoms that overlap with ADHD. However, common signs of ADHD include difficulty paying attention, forgetfulness, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and difficulty following instructions. If you notice these symptoms in your child, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional to determine if your child has ADHD and to develop a management plan.

adhd symptoms in kids professional help

There are two groups of symptoms of ADHD:

Inattentive ADHD symptoms in kids

  • Difficulty maintaining focus in class, conversations, or while reading
  • Avoidance of tasks requiring continuous mental effort (e.g., homework)
  • Tendency to start but not finish tasks
  • Not following through on instructions
  • Challenges in organising tasks, activities, belongings, or time
  • Lack of attention to details or making careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Frequent distraction or daydreaming
  • Misplacing or losing items
  • Appearing inattentive when spoken to
  • Forgetfulness regarding everyday tasks, such as chores and appointments

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms in kids

  • Fidgeting and squirming
  • Blurting out answers
  • Having difficulty playing quietly
  • Having difficulty waiting their turn
  • Leaving their seat in class or other situations where sitting is expected
  • Constantly in motion, as if “driven by a motor”
  • Struggling to play or do tasks quietly
  • Running or climbing in inappropriate situations
  • Leaving their seat in class
  • Talking non-stop
  • Interrupting conversations, games, or activities, or using people’s things without permission

A typical day in the life of a child with ADHD

    In the morning, the child forgets to brush their teeth, or forgets to put their pencil case in their backpack. Once at school, they can’t concentrate on the teacher’s instructions or the lesson material, even when they try to. Their mind wanders, and they become easily distracted. When talking with other kids at lunch, the child finds it hard to stay engaged. The child appears inattentive, frequently interrupts, or seems disinterested in what others are saying. After school, the child uses avoidance strategies to delay doing homework, such as “I’ll just finish this level on my video game.” Maybe they lose the permission slip that needed to be signed by a parent. At bedtime, the child may have trouble winding down and falling asleep due to their racing thoughts.

    Seeking professional diagnosis and treatment

    If you think your child has ADHD, it’s important to seek a professional diagnosis and treatment plan. Paediatricians, child psychologists, and psychiatrists can help to develop a treatment plan for your child. These professionals can assess your child to determine if they have ADHD and develop a personalised treatment plan. Treatment options may include medication, behavioral therapy, attention-training computer programs, or a combination of all three. It’s important to work closely with any healthcare professionals to make sure that your child receives the best possible care and support. Never be afraid to ask questions, ask for examples, or request alternative treatment methods. You know your child best.

    adhd symptoms in kids professional help

    Managing ADHD symptoms in kids at home and in school

    Once your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, it’s important to work with their healthcare team to develop a plan for managing their symptoms both at home and in school. Medication may be prescribed. The issue with only medicating for attentional difficulties is that the student will forever be reliant on the medication in order to pay attention. Generally, experts recommend helping in three ways: environmental modifications, compensatory strategies, and skill building interventions.

    attention difficulties

    Environmental modifications

    • Place the student with ADHD near the front of the classroom to minimise distractions
    • Maintain a clutter-free classroom
    • Minimise noise, and even provide noise-canceling headphones, or use calming sensory tools like stress balls or fidget toys

    Compensatory strategies

    • Use non-verbal cues such as gestures and facial expressions
    • Pause between parts of instructions and ask the student to repeat back to you what is required of them
    • Give directions in a logical, time-ordered sequence. Use words that make the sequence clear (eg. first, next, finally)
    • Encourage the student to ask if they haven’t understood
    • Use visual cues such as labels, color-coding, and visual schedules to keep them on track and signal a transition to another activity
    • Visual aids such as charts and checklists to help them understand and follow instructions
    • Visual timers to manage time and promote task completion
    • Establish consistent daily routines and schedules to provide predictability

    Skill-building interventions

    While the above methods can help and certainly have their place, they do not treat the underlying attentional issues present in ADHD. They just work around the issues. Thus, many health professionals now agree that attention training is an important part of intervention for attention difficulties. Engaging students in novel, motivating computer games, with content that requires longer and longer periods of sustained focused attention, and provides positive feedback for correct answers, is the gold standard for training attentional deficits. Using these programs naturally increases attentional neurotransmitters, improving a person’s ability to pay attention for longer periods.

    Online learning programs can help improve attention in an easy and fun way. Sonic Learning’s team of health and education professionals has been successfully using proven neuroscience programs (Fast ForWord and Cogmed) since 2004 to improve attention. And younger students from 3 years of age can now access the EF Kids program.

    EF Kids

    Builds executive function skills:

    • Attention
    • Memory
    • Cognitive flexibility

    Time commitment: 10 mins/day, 3 days/week
    Program length: 3 months
    Suitable for: ages 3 – 8
    Find out more

    executive function skills training EF kids

    Fast ForWord

    Builds critical foundations of learning

    • Listening (auditory processing)
    • Auditory memory
    • Auditory attention
    • Comprehension
    • Following instructions
    • Sequencing

    Suitable for: ages 6 to adult
    Time commitment: 30 mins/day, 5 days/week
    Find out more

    Fast ForWord Programs


    Supercharges working memory

    • Auditory working memory
    • Visual working memory
    • Attention

    Suitable for: ages 6 to adult
    Time commitment: 30 mins/day, 3-5 days/week
    Program length: 6 – 14 weeks
    Find out more

    Cogmed Programs - 3 iPads

    Supporting your child with ADHD through communication and understanding

    Recognise ADHD symptoms in your child and learn how to manage them effectively. Environmental modifications, compensatory strategies, and skill-building interventions can all help alleviate ADHD symptoms in kids. Sonic Learning offers effective online programs like EF Kids, Fast ForWord, and Cogmed, designed by health and education professionals to improve attention and critical learning foundations in children with ADHD. With the right support and understanding, children with ADHD can thrive both at home and in school.

    Contact Sonic Learning’s team of health professionals to learn more about their proven neuroscience programs and support your child with ADHD, or use our free online screening assessment tool to find discover you or your child’s learning strengths and weaknesses.


    Learn more & contact us

    Fast forword

    Take our 5-minute online screening assessment

    Not sure if you have attention issues? Identify learning strengths and weaknesses.

    Book a free phone consult

    This free telephone consultation can help to answer any questions you have about our services. At Sonic Learning we are all experienced teachers and health professionals so parents tend to find it very beneficial to be able to discuss their concerns and receive guidance from our team.

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