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ADHD - What is it?

ADHD is a common behavioural disorder affecting school-age children:

  • The prevalence figure is 3.62% in boys and 0.85% in girls aged between 5 and 15 years nationally, which makes the condition four times more prevalent in boys.3
  • Up to two thirds of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to experience symptoms into adulthood.3

Children with ADHD often act without thinking, can be hyperactive and may have trouble focusing. ADHD can affect all aspects of a person’s life, extending far beyond poor behaviour or problems at school. The symptoms can have a significant impact upon their early development, on family life, relationships with friends, school discipline and society as a whole.4

“...Too many children [with ADHD] are ‘slipping through the net’ and, as a consequence, they are learning to fail.” 5

Dr Val Harpin, Consultant Paediatrician



Children with ADHD have a disability.6 As with autism in the past, ADHD has been dismissed by some as a convenient ‘label’ to excuse poor behaviour or impaired learning. However, a substantial body of research evidence demonstrates that it is, in fact, a specific condition with clearly identifiable symptoms and clinically effective treatments.3

Children with ADHD are not problem children, but children with a genuine problem.
Dr Geoffrey Kewley, Consultant Paediatrician


ADHD is a clinically distinct neurobiological condition that is caused by an imbalance of chemicals affecting specific parts of the brain responsible for behaviour.7 The core features of ADHD are behavioural characteristics,

  • Inattention
  • Impulsivity
  • Hyperactivity

Analysis of ADHD groups versus non-ADHD groups has identified consistent changes in brain structure and function and in performance in neuro-cognitive tests.3 Additionally, ADHD is known to have a strong genetic basis with studies showing that children of a parent who has ADHD have up to a 50% chance of experiencing the same difficulties.8

A specialist consultant using standard criteria and rating scales can diagnose ADHD in school-age children.3 Once diagnosed, there is no ‘quick fix’ for children with ADHD but the good news is that the condition is manageable with a combination of regimes that can include behaviour management, cognitive therapies and medication.3 The problem is that many specialists believe that ADHD is under-diagnosed and under treated. In a research report investigating ADHD in the UK, 54% of adolescent psychiatrists and paediatricians stated that ADHD is currently underdiagnosed in the UK.9

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