Does my child have ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition.

If your child has ADHD then their behaviour may be affected by:

  • problems paying attention
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsivity

Many children struggle to pay attention and are restless some of the time. This does not necessarily mean they have ADHD. 

Your child may have ADHD if their inattention or hyperactivity is much worse compared with other children of the same age and if it is affecting your child's school, social and family life.

Another way of thinking about ADHD is that your child struggles to put the brakes on things. They can't stop responding to distractions, their inside thoughts and impulsive thoughts. 


There is no single, simple test for ADHD. The diagnosis is made by recognising patterns of behaviour, observing your child and from reports of their behaviour at home and at school.

  • Symptoms should be present for at least 6 months
  • Symptoms must be seen in at least 2 places, such as at home, school, clubs or in childcare settings
  • Other problems should be ruled out first, for example hearing problems
  • If symptoms are mild then a formal diagnosis may not be needed. Sometimes behaviours can be managed using self help tips such as those below and with extra support, see where to start section


Not all children have all the symptoms. This means some can just have problems with poor attention, while others are mainly hyperactive.

1. Problems paying attention (inattentive)

  • seem forgetful
  • easily distracted, for example a door banging
  • difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • difficulty organising themselves, for example getting ready for school 
  • difficulty listening, for example focusing on what a teacher is saying or struggle following instructions

2. Problems sitting still (hyperactivity)

  • restless
  • fidget
  • full of energy, always on the go

3. Problems controlling impulses (impulsivity)

  • do things without thinking
  • struggle to wait their turn for example in a game or in a queue

Where to start?




(back to symptoms)

  • Start by making an appointment with your child's teacher or the School Nursing Team to discuss your concerns. Even if your child’s difficulties are not obvious at school, this is still the best place to seek early support. 
  • You can also speak to your Health Visitor or School Nurse (0-19 service) or GP. 
  • Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ) for different age groups can be found as PDF files on They are sometimes used as part of your child's assessment.
  • Waiting times for an ADHD assessment can be long. While you are on the waiting list, you can still get support for your child, see our support for neurodivergent child. Most   groups (see our support for neurodivergent child) will work with your child and support you whether or not they have a diagnosis.  
ADHD assessment in your local area 

Each area is different. Your child's health visitor, school or GP can refer your child for an assessment. 

Tips to help your child 

1. Encourage good sleeping habits

We know lots of children with ADHD struggle with their sleep and this can cause problems concentrating at school. Visit our sleep page for more advice. Speak to your GP or paediatrician if your child has persistent problems with sleep.

2. Offer a balanced diet and encourage regular exercise

Visit our healthy eating and being active pages for advice. 

3. Make instructions simple

Use a 1 sentence rule for instructions. 1 instruction at a time. Make their tasks small and give them lots of praise when they get it right. 

4. Offer breaks

If you think an activity is going to be demanding, be proactive and build in short breaks. This will help make the activity feel more manageable.

5. Keep a simple routine

Routines help children focus on one thing at a time. If they know what they are doing every day, this helps them to keep organised. Make sure their meals are regular, including a good breakfast so that they are not hungry at school.

6. Help them understand their ADHD

Talk to your child about their ADHD. Try to focus on the positives of having ADHD and highlight your child’s strengths. 

7. Communication

Make eye contact with your child when speaking to them. Give them advance notice of a change that is going to happen. Give your child simple choices. For example, "When you come home from school today you need to do your reading and have a bath, which would you like to do first?"

Use the word 'we'. 'How do you think 'we' could do this differently?'

8. Spend 1 to 1 quiet time with your child 

Give them praise and focus on positive behaviours. Try not to criticise. Tell them when you have enjoyed spending time with them. This will help build their self esteem. 

9. Friendships and play 

Your child might appear socially out of tune as they may struggle to listen to instructions or dominate activities. They may find group activities difficulty and may find things like running or a martial arts easier. Encourage learning through play. Use imaginative play. Follow your child's lead.

10. Don't take your child's behaviour personally. 



What does this mean for my child in the long term?

About 1 in 3 children with ADHD may grow out of it and not need treatment as an adult. Most children benefit from getting help to meet their needs. Some are able to catch up with their learning, improve their school performance and make friends.

However, some children can really struggle, even as adults. They may struggle with relationships, studying, working and with their mood.

Further information 

Daisy Chain |Autism & Neurodiversity (

 Read the NICE Guidance on ADHD

 BBC Parents' ADHD Toolkit 

ADHD Foundation has lots of resources and have published a booklet for children with ADHD

  Podcast SENsational: The Special Educational Needs Podcast including 'What every parent needs to know about ADHD'

  ADDitude provides guidance and support for living better with ADHD and its related mental health conditions. 

 Young Minds Parent's Guide to Supporting Your Child with ADHD 


Get Help and Support 

Visit our Support for neurodivergent children and their families page for a full list of support available. 


 The Trouble with Dragons is a free book from the ADHD Foundation for very young children. 

 Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents by Russell Barkley

 The Explosive Child by Ross Greene 

 Read the BookTrust's tips for supporting reading for children with ADHD

Where should you seek help?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

Contacting the School Nurse

Some primary and secondary schools may have an allocated school nurse, however this can vary depending on the area  – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your school nursing team.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

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Redcar and Cleveland

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

North Cumbria


North Tyneside



South Tyneside


County Durham





Redcar and Cleveland

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?


You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

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