Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is it?Speech Image - 4

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is characterised primarily by inattention, easy distractibility, disorganisation, procrastination, forgetfulness and lethargy or fatigue. Symptoms usually show before the age of seven. It is most common in school-age children.

ADHD is a chronic disorder, meaning that it affects an individual throughout life. The symptoms are also pervasive, meaning they occur in multiple settings, rather than just one.

What are some signs or symptoms of ADHD?

Current research supports the idea of two distinct characteristics of ADHD, inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity. A child with these characteristics typically demonstrates the following signs:

  • restlessness
  • being easily distracted
  • constant fidgeting
  • Children with ADD/ADHD may also experience sleep disorders or learning difficulties. ADD/ADHD has no effect on intelligence.


  • Has difficulty concentrating
  • Has unrelated thoughts
  • Has problems focusing and sustaining attention
  • Appears to not be listening
  • Performance depends on task
  • May have better attention to enjoyed activities
  • Has difficulty planning, organizing, and completing tasks on time
  • Has problems learning new things
  • Demonstrates poor self-regulation of behavior, that is, he or she has difficulty monitoring and modifying behavior to fit different situations and settings


  • Seems unable to sit still (e.g., squirming in his/her seat, roaming around the room, tapping pencil, wiggling feet, and touching everything)
  • Appears restless and fidgety
  • May bounce from one activity to the next
  • Often tries to do more than one thing at once


  • Difficulty thinking before acting (e.g., hitting a classmate when he/she is upset or frustrated)
  • Problems waiting his/her turn, such as when playing a game

Many of the symptoms of ADHD occur from time to time in all children. However, children with ADHD display a much greater frequency of the symptoms and their lives are significantly impaired with their friendships and school work being affected. These difficulties must occur across different settings for the symptoms to be classified as ADD/ADHD.

Treatment for individuals with ADD/ADHD usually involves a combination of medication, behaviour modification, learning coping techniques, lifestyle changes and counselling. Many children with ADD/ADHD will also have sensory processing disorders and this can contribute to their inability to pay attention, focus and concentrate.

Children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD and ADHD) often have difficulties with their fine motor, cognitive and play development which affects their participation, academic and social success at home, preschool/school and extra-curricular activities. Children with ADD/ADHD benefit from Occupational Therapy to assist develop these skill areas. School readiness activities are often important in order to ensure that your child has the best start to school.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

ADHD is diagnosed by the child's doctor. A physician will work with the family and student to prescribe medication, if needed, to help with attention. If medication is prescribed, the SLP will work with the family and other professionals to observe the student's pre- and post-medication behavior.As part of the educational team, the SLP will communicate with the family and physician regarding any post-medication behavioral changes. Is the student drowsy? Is sustained attention better/worse? How long does it take for the medication to take effect? The physician will use these observations to adjust dosage, the time medications are administered, and which medication is used.
The SLP, along with other team members, will work with the teacher to change the classroom environment as needed (e.g., sitting the student in the front of the classroom, having the student repeat directions before following them, using checklists and other visual organizers to help with planning and follow-through). Many professionals are often involved withchildren with ADHD.

These professionals include :

Speech-language Pathologists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Regular, special education, and resource teachers
  • Nurses
  • Psychologists
  • Employers (when applicable)

What Therapies for Kids can do

Following a full assessment of your child's individual differences in motor skills, play, learning, organisation, planning and their sensory process the Occupational Therapist will develop goals and a therapy plan with you. Therapy may be provided at home, school or preschool and may target:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Handwriting
  • Social and play skills
  • Sensory processing difficulties
  • Visual perception
  • Help the child to attend and learn by adapting the environment and activities and providing and teaching specific strategies
  • Assessments by the SLP may include some or all of the following:

The Speech Pathologist will develop goals and a therapy plan and may target :

  • Observing the interactions with peers and authority figures in the classroom/work setting and during formal testing
  • Observing conversation with parents and other family members
Interviewing parents/caregivers about speech and language development
  • Interviewing the child to evaluate self-awareness of needs and difficulties, as age appropriate
  • Formally evaluating speech and language skills, such as fluency (whether or not child stutters), speech articulation (pronunciation and clarity of speech), understanding and use of grammar (syntax), understanding and use of vocabulary (semantics ), awareness of speech sounds (phonemic awareness)
Evaluating the ability to explain or retell a story, centering on a topic and chaining a sequence of events together
Assessing social communication skills (pragmatic language)
Discussing stories and the points of view of various characters
Assessing the ability to plan, organize, and attend to details

Specific speech and language patterns vary from child to child with ADHD. For example, some children with ADHD also have learning disabilities that affect their speech and language. Evaluation of each child's individual speech and language ability is critical to developing an appropriate treatment plan.

Speech and language intervention for the person with ADHD is always individualized, as each person has different needs. Speech-language treatment will focus on individualized language goals, such as teaching better communication in specific social situations, and study skills (planning/organizing/attention to detail). Again, language goals will differ depending on the needs of the individual student.

What you can do

When symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity or impulsiveness are significantly affecting a child's ability to learn and to complete activities of daily living, then a diagnosis and intervention should be sought.

Our Occupational Therapists are happy to conduct an assessment and begin intervention as required. Be sure to speak with your child’s teachers and carers to gather information about any concerns they may have as this will help prioritise therapy intervention goals.