When your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), things may seem overwhelming. But you are far from alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says ADHD is the most common neurobiological disorder in the United States. It is fairly common among children who are struggling in school, with more than nine percent of children aged two to 17 receiving an ADHD diagnosis during their childhood. Thankfully, many resources exist for parents who want to help their child manage challenges at home, school and beyond. We’re sharing some of the best ways to help a child with ADHD.

Learn about our pediatric therapies for infants, children and adolescents with mild to severe disabilities.

Signs and symptoms of ADHD

ADHD is a brain-based disorder that is usually diagnosed during childhood. Before 1994, children were either diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Today, ADHD is the umbrella for all forms, with the following subtypes characterized by these signs and symptoms.

ADHD hyperactive-impulsive type

Children with poor impulse control may make spur-of-the-moment decisions without considering the consequences, have trouble taking turns, and regularly interrupt others.

Hyperactive children find it hard to sit still and be quiet. They are in constant motion — which may look like fidgeting, talking or tapping — especially in situations where these behaviors are inappropriate.

ADHD inattentive type

Originally known as ADD, symptoms include being disorganized and having problems staying on task. A child with this subtype may spend a lot of time daydreaming and have trouble paying attention even when someone is speaking to them directly.

ADHD combined

This is the most diagnosed subset of ADHD. Children diagnosed with ADHD combined exhibit signs and symptoms of both the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive types.

Treatment for ADHD

For children diagnosed with ADHD, the AAP’s treatment recommendations are based on age groups:

  • For children younger than 6, the AAP recommends parents become trained in behavior management techniques before the child is put on medication.
  • For children age 6 and older, the AAP recommends a combination of medication and behavior therapy — including behavior management training for parents of children up to age 12, and additional behavior therapy and training for adolescents. Find out how your child's school environment can be part of the treatment.

EIRMC’s Pediatric Therapies provides behavior management techniques to help children focus, manage their time, and address hyperactive tendencies. Your child’s pediatrician can provide a referral for these services.

How to help your child with ADHD

Try these strategies for helping your child with ADHD:

Ask Bailey: Tips to Help an Inattentive or Disorganized Child - YouTube

Prioritize sleep.

Children who take medications for ADHD (which are mostly stimulants) often have trouble sleeping. To help your child get better sleep, which is key to their health and well-being, ask your doctor about adjusting the dosage or timing of their medication, or trying a different type of medication.

Get organized.

Children who are encouraged to store their backpacks, clothing, toys and other items in the same place every day are less likely to misplace them. This can help children manage their time better and avoid scrambling to find lost items.

Manage distractions.

Homework can be especially difficult for kids with ADHD and frustrating for parents. Some children learn better when all distractions are removed and workspaces are kept clean and uncluttered. Other kids with ADHD do better when they are up and moving or listening to background music. Find what works best for your child.

Offer limited choices.

Children with ADHD may become overwhelmed or overstimulated when too many options are available. Try limiting choices to two; this one or that one.

Encourage a healthy lifestyle.

In addition to getting enough sleep, children need nutritious food and lots of physical activity to be at their best.

Be the anchor for your anxious child.

Almost a quarter of children with ADHD struggle with anxiety, so be proactive in helping them find coping strategies and solutions. Stick to routines when possible, provide clear and consistent rules, and look for opportunities to offer praise and rewards for good behavior.

While many children outgrow their ADHD, at least one-third of those diagnosed as children will carry their ADHD into adulthood. The National Resource Center on ADHD, a program of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, has information about the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD throughout the lifespan.

EIRMC has Pediatric Occupational Therapists who specialize in addressing ADHD issues in children. Ask your pediatrician for a referral to EIRMC pediatric therapies at (208) 529-7982.