What is ADHD?
This handout explains what ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is and ways to
manage the diagnosis.
ADHD is a common behavior disorder that
affects 1 in 10 school age children and can
make it hard to sit still, pay attention, take
turns and finish tasks.
The cause of ADHD is not clear; however,
we know the brain works different in a child
with ADHD than without and that it runs in
Symptoms of ADHD
A child with ADHD may have one or more
of these symptoms, but most have all of
ξ Trouble with attention to details
ξ Difficulty staying focused and
ξ Forgetfulness in daily activities
ξ A hard time staying seated
ξ Always seems to be “on the go”
ξ Acts and talks without thinking
ξ Has trouble taking turns and
interrupts a lot
While all children misbehave at times,
children with ADHD often find it hard to
behave in many settings (home, school, team
sports and camps) and tend to behave worse
than other kids the same age. This can make
it hard for your child to do well in school
and other group activities.
Finding out if your child has ADHD
If your child has ADHD, the symptoms
ξ Start before your child is 7 years old.
ξ Last more than 6 months.
Call your child’s doctor if you think your
child may have ADHD. You should know:
ξ It is hard to diagnose ADHD in
children younger than 6 years.
ξ The doctor will ask about how your
child behaves at home, school and
other places. The doctor may have
your child’s teacher fill out a form to
learn about your child’s behavior.
ξ Other problems can have the same
symptoms as ADHD, such as not
obeying, anxiety, learning problems
Are there medical tests for ADHD?
There is no proven medical test for ADHD
at this time. Blood tests, computer tests; x-
rays, like MRIs or CAT scans; or brain-
wave tests don’t help diagnose ADHD. Your
child’s doctor may have other reasons for
ordering these tests. Ask the doctor if you
have any questions.
Making a Plan
There is no cure for ADHD. But there are
many ways to help your child. As a parent,
you are very important in the treatment
process. Your child’s doctor will help you
make a plan for managing your child’s
ADHD. Most plans include:
Medicine: Medicines called stimulants are
safe and work well. They speed up the
signals in your child’s brain and help them
pay attention and control their behavior.
Your child’s doctor will help find what
works best for your child. If stimulants are
not helping your child, your doctor may
suggest other options and work with you to
find one that works. It is important for your
child to have regular checkups when taking
medicine so they can track how well the
medicine is working, side effects and if a
dose change is needed.
Behavior therapy: This approach focuses
on consistent ways to replace bad habits
with good ones. Examples include:
ξ Setting clear, small goals.
ξ Accepting slow progress, not instant
ξ Find things your child can do well.
ξ Help your child stay “on task.”
ξ Give rewards.
ξ Give consequences.
ξ Stick with the system!
Working with the school: Your child’s
school should work with you and your
Two federal laws say that schools must
ξ The Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, Part B (IDEA)
ξ Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
These laws say public schools must:
ξ Pay for testing for a child with
ξ Use teaching methods that meet
children’s learning needs.
ξ Give extra help when needed.
It may take time to find the right treatment
for your child. Treatment with both
medicine and behavior therapy helps most
school-aged children with ADHD; however,
it may not fix all the problems
Know that you are not alone. Being a parent
of a child with ADHD can be hard. There
are parent training and support groups to
help you cope. Seek counseling if you feel
overwhelmed or hopeless. Ask your child’s
doctor where you can find this kind of help.
Answers to Common Questions
Will my child outgrow ADHD?
ADHD tends to last into adulthood; and,
many people live good, productive lives.
Having a lot of energy can help in some
Do children get “high” on stimulants?
Stimulants do not make a child high, sleepy
or dopey. It is important for your child to get
the right kind and amount of medicine for
him/her and to have regular doctor visits.
Do schools put children on ADHD
Teachers are often the first to notice signs of
ADHD but only a doctor can diagnose and
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©5/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7902.