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Guide to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Posted on July 28, 2019 by Ann

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Ken’s story

Ken is very active. He never stops moving. He gets distracted easily by noises and has a short attention span. He dashes around and disrupts everything in his path. He darts from one activity to the next and runs around no matter how often he gets reprimanded.

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common problems seen in children. It affects three to seven percent of children, with a higher proportion found in boys. It is characterised by

1. inattention,
2. hyperactivity, and
3. impulsiveness,

which vary from person to person. No two children with ADHD are exactly alike.

How do I know if my child has ADHD?

Some signs of inattention include:

• Frequent failure to finish things which he or she started
• Not listening when spoken to
• Getting distracted easily
• Difficulty concentrating on tasks requiring a long attention span
• Difficulty sticking to a play activity

Some signs of hyperactivity include:

• Running about or climbing on things excessively
• Difficulty sitting still or fidgeting excessively
• Difficulty staying seated

Some signs of impulsiveness include:

• Often acting before thinking
• Shifting excessively from one activity to another
• Needing a lot of supervision
• Frequently shouting in class or in other settings
• Impatience in waiting for his or her turn in games or in group situations

The diagnosis of ADHD should only be made if the child displays behaviours that are considered excessive when compared to another child of the same age. We advise that you consult a psychologist or psychiatrist for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

Why does my child have ADHD?

The exact causes of ADHD are not known. Past researches have found a possible correlation between ADHD, brain structure and certain brain chemicals like noradrenaline and dopamine.

There are other conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or seizures that may also lead to hyperactivity, disruptiveness, and inattention.

How do I manage my child with ADHD?

Treatment of ADHD is found to be most effective when different strategies are implemented concurrently.

These may include:

1. behaviour management,
2. educational intervention,
3. family counselling and support, and
4. medication.

The strategies selected depend on the severity of the condition and the specific needs of the child.

1. Behaviour management

By establishing a routine for your child with a specific time and place, you help your child understand your expectations.

• Make success easier for your child. If your child has trouble finishing a task, break the task into smaller tasks and let him or her  work on a small task each time.

• Give frequent feedback to your child. Praise or reward your child every time he or she complies or accomplishes a goal. The frequency of feedback can be slowly reduced as your child improves. Consider using a reward chart displaying stars, rewards and consequences.

• Use visual reminders. Put up a chart with pictures and photographs of the task and the expected behaviours to help your child understand and remember what he or she is supposed to do.

Using Ken as an example, one way to work with him is to use a timer to teach him to sit down and work on a smaller task for 3 minutes at the beginning. After 3 minutes, praise him and give him a small biscuit as a reward for sitting down and doing work. Allow him to take a short break before returning to his task for another 3 minutes. Following this, give him a favourite toy to play with after he has been successful for 5 sets of 3 minutes. Increase the time slowly from 3 minutes to 5 minutes and so on as he progresses.

2. Family counselling and support

Usual methods of discipline like reasoning and scolding may not work with a child who has ADHD as the child is unable to control and manage the behaviours by himself or herself.

Caregivers often feel powerless and blame themselves for not being good parents even though they try.

Siblings may also find themselves neglected in the process.

The cycle of frustration, blame, and anger continues and the problem can affect the entire family, including the child.

Therefore, family members should seek help from professionals who can help them manage disruptive behaviours and stress management techniques.

3. Medication

There are several drugs, which when used together with behaviour management, produce positive results for children.

For many children with ADHD, medications help reduce their hyperactivity and impulsiveness. This results in effective learning and better school performance. As effects of medication vary among individuals, caregivers are advised to take note of the following:

• Consult a medical doctor or psychiatrist for advice.
• Understand the need for treatment using medication.
• Follow the prescribed drug treatment and do not change the dosage without consulting the doctor.
• Be aware of any possible side effects of the drug by monitoring your child’s behaviour and progression.
• Give accurate feedback to the doctor during follow-ups to ensure that the right drug and dosage is prescribed for your child.
• Inform teachers of your child’s medication treatment so that your child can be monitored in school.


MINDS is an All In Preferred Partner.

Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) is one of the largest Voluntary Welfare Organisations in Singapore, serving some 2,400 clients from past the age of six to their ripe old age. MINDS’ services include four special schools, three employment development centres, three day training and development centres, and one multi-service residential home.

This guide was originally published by MINDS’ Allied Health Professionals unit and republished with minor editorial amendments by All In.

All content found on the All In website, has been created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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