ADHD is a developmental disorder that occurs in 1-3% of the population. As with other developmental disorders, boys are more likely to be affected than girls. ADHD is not related to intelligence. Children with all levels of ability can have it and it can affect children from all walks of life. ADHD does not go away. The presentation of the condition, however, may change over time.

There is a strong genetic component in ADHD. Research shows that if a parent has ADHD, there is a greater than 50% chance that at least one of their children will also have the condition.

Children with ADHD show particular difficulties in some or all of the following:


can’t focus

don’t seem to be listening

seem to be daydreaming

very easily distracted

can’t concentrate


always “on the go”

can’t sit still


act before thinking

shout out in class


These are behaviours that all of us display to some degree at different times.

However, in children with ADHD the behaviours are also:

  1. Present for more than six months;
  2. Severe enough to interfere with normal functioning for children of their age;
  3. Not explained by developmental level or other difficulty/condition;
  4. Not explained by other factors such as “laziness” or lack of sleep


The following strategies can help support students with ADHD at school.

Managing inattention:

sit the pupil at the front of the class, near to the teacher and away from any internal or external distractions. Ensure that the table/desk s/he is working at is also free of any distracter items, and that there is a place to go for quiet study

sit the pupil with other pupils who will provide good role models. This will provide an environment for observational learning to take place, which will hopefully result in imitation of the desired behaviour

divide tasks into smaller, more manageable segments and reduce task choices to no more than two

as soon as the pupil has finished each part of his/her task, use positive reinforcement to praise the pupil for completing each segment of the task and for staying focused

keep classroom rules clear and simple, and instructions brief, and only give one instruction at a time. In order to avoid the pupil being inflexible, keep routines fixed so that the day’s events are organised and easy to forecast

to help the pupil follow instructions, first gain his/her attention and then give the instruction. Repeat the instruction using a variety of methods (such as verbal and written), ask the pupil to repeat it, and then repeat the instruction at regular intervals and ask the pupil to continue to repeat the instruction to him/herself.

Managing hyperactivity

provide pupils with short periods of physical activity during task segments

when the pupil needs to calm down, have activities ready that are structured, easy and enjoyable for him/her to do, and that allow him/her to move around either in the classroom or within the school grounds.

Managing impulsivity

help pupils to become aware of how their behaviour affects themselves and others. Ask them to explain a number of times what they have done, what they think would have been a more acceptable way to behave and why they think others around them have responded in the ways they have.