Living with ADHD

People under 30 with ADHD are usually 30-40% behind their chronological age in terms of executive functioning. So a 10-year-old with ADHD has about the same executive functioning that a typical 7-year-old would. Parents should keep this in mind when setting expectations for ADHD children


The brains of people with ADHD have an imbalance in the interplay between the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinophrine, creating a situation in which an experience or activity must be more stimulating in order to draw and hold their attention or enable optimal focus.

This neurotransmitter imbalance also leads to ‘novelty seeking’. In fact, one variation of the DRD4 gene for dopamine receptors, called the ‘7-repeat allele’, has been associated with some forms of ADHD characterized by wanderlust. Those with the so-called ‘explorer gene’ appear compelled to move between houses, cities, and countries. People with ADHD continually scan their environments and minds to search out the stimulating thoughts and experiences that they need in order to fire up their brains and fully engage with the world. This brings a higher likelihood of ending up in prison or addicted to drugs. But it also brings a compulsive fixation on what is surprising, dramatic, or controversial.

Exercise elevates the brain’s levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and endorphins, making people with ADHD less impulsive, and better able to pay attention to what they are working on.

ADHD individuals can find it hard to take responsibility for their impulsive actions and may project blame onto others. Their executive functioning is explained well in this graphic:

Exec functions


What is Executive Functioning? How Does it Affect My Child? Read more about Executive Functioning and see this EF WHITE SHEET guide



Read this excellent Understanding and managing ADHD _Modified Booklet from ADHD Foundation


Register for children and young people with disabilities

ADHD is recognised as a disability. Some families of children and young people on the register, or the young person themselves if over the age of 13 years, might wish to request a Disability Awareness Card. This is an officially produced card that will show the name and year of birth of the child or young person. It will confirm that the child or young person is registered as having a disability on the local Special Educational Needs and Disability Register. This can be useful as identification if your disability isn’t obvious. This might help you access concessions or discounts that are offered for disabled people and their carers when out and about in the community.

Every Local Authority has a Special Educational Needs and Disability Register which, if you are on it means you can access:

  • Information about support, services, activities and events
  • Information aimed at young people with disabilities
  • Opportunities to have your say about the services that are important to you
  • The knowledge that your anonymous statistical data is helping us to plan and improve services


This Guide will show you what support you can expect from your Local Authority



Click this photo for a video called “Living with ADHD”


Caring for a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be draining. The impulsive, fearless and chaotic behaviours typical of ADHD can make normal everyday activities exhausting and stressful. Listen to this audio


How to discipline a child with ADHD. Also, read these Discipline Strategies for ADHD Children


How to help children with ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can affect children’s learning and social skills, and the way a family functions. Medication, behaviour modification, home and classroom strategies and sometimes counselling can all help children with ADHD at home and at school.

Ways to cope
Although it can be difficult at times, it’s important to remember a child with ADHD cannot help their behaviour. People with ADHD find it difficult to suppress impulses, which means they do not stop to consider a situation or the consequences before they act.

If you are looking after a child with ADHD, you may find the below advice helpful.

Plan the day
Plan the day so your child knows what to expect. Set routines can make a difference to how a child with ADHD copes with everyday life. For example, if your child has to get ready for school, break it down into structured steps, so they know exactly what they need to do.

Set clear boundaries
Make sure everyone knows what behaviour is expected, and reinforce positive behaviour with immediate praise or rewards. Be clear, using enforceable consequences if boundaries are overstepped (such as taking away a privilege) and follow these through consistently.

Be positive
Give specific praise. Instead of saying a general, “Thanks for doing that,” you could say, “You washed the dishes really well. Thank you.” This will make it clear to your child that you are pleased, and why.

Giving instructions
If you are asking your child to do something, give brief instructions and be specific. Instead of asking, “Can you tidy your bedroom?” say, “Please put your toys into the box, and put the books back onto the shelf.” This makes it clearer what your child needs to do and creates opportunities for praise when they get it right.

Incentive scheme
Set up your own incentive scheme using a points chart or star chart, so good behaviour can earn a privilege. For example, behaving well on a shopping trip will earn your child time on the computer or some sort of game. Involve your child in it and allow them to help decide what the privileges will be.

Intervene early
Watch for warning signs. If your child looks like they are becoming frustrated, overstimulated and about to lose self-control, intervene. Distract your child if possible, by taking them away from the situation, which may calm them down.

Social situations
Keep social situations short and sweet. Invite friends to play, but keep playtimes short so your child does not lose self-control. Do not aim to do this when your child is feeling tired or hungry, such as after a day at school.

Make sure your child gets lots of physical activity during the day. Walking, skipping and playing sport can help your child wear themselves out and improve their quality of sleep. Make sure they are not doing anything too strenuous or exciting near to bedtime.

Keep an eye on what your child eats. If your child is hyperactive after eating certain foods, which may contain additives or caffeine, keep a diary of these and discuss them with your GP.


One of the problem that many parents of ADHD kids face is getting their kids settled and off to sleep at night. Often the hyperactivity and impulsiveness that comes with ADHD creates sleep problems too. Staying asleep all through the night is rare, and the idea of an unbroken night’s sleep for parents is a thing of dreams!

Download this free app from the Evelina Clinic

This lack of sleep can also lead to other issues and your child’s activities may be affected – especially their academic performance in school. Having ADHD means being attentive during school activities is already a problem and the lack of sleep will add insult to injury and can worsen the situation. Read Dr Frances Knight’s slides from our ADHD Richmond_Apr 26 Talk on Sleep & ADHD & watch her video

One way to overcome the issues caused by sleep problems is to set a regular sleep schedule for your child. Remember that when it comes to managing ADHD, routine is the key!

Make sure your child goes to bed at exactly the same time every night and wakes up at a specific time as well. Establishing this routine will make your child’s daily schedule much easier to manage, especially during weekdays when they need to wake up early for school.

Keep the room a place of quiet can calm. Yes, kids love to be allowed to go to sleep with the TV on – and it can often seem like the easy option for Mum too – but it acts as a stimulant and will your child’s mind active.  Avoid giving your child food – especially sweets – less than an hour before bedtime because that will also keep him awake.

Another tip is to provide a relaxing environment for your child to sleep in. Use blackout curtains and consider having soft music or a gentle story playing in the background. Many people find using essential oils in a room humidifier can help with relaxation. Having a very different atmosphere at bedtime will help your child to understand that once you start the ritual, it’s time to go to sleep. Giving your child cues like dimming the lights or turning on a story CD can be very effective.

Weighted therapy blankets can often help your child to sleep. You can buy blanket weight  dependant on child’s weight

Creating a bedtime routine for your child – and sticking to it every day, at the same time – can make a huge difference to sleep problems. Your routine might look like this:

4pm: Playtime/TV/homework

6pm: Dinner

7pm: Bathtime. Cleaning teeth, getting into pyjamas/nightie.

7.30pm: Read a bedtime story, talk about the day, other relaxing activity in the child’s bedroom.

8pm: Lights out. Dim the lights, turn on night light, start music – whatever you want to do to create a comfortable sleep environment.This is the cue for your child that it’s bedtime and they need to sleep.

By setting a sleeping schedule for your child to follow, you’ll begin to overcome sleep problems and counter the effects of lack of sleep in ADHD kids

Stick to a routine. Make sure your child goes to bed at the same time each night and gets up at the same time in the morning. Avoid overstimulating activities in the hours before bedtime, such as computer games or watching TV.

Sleep problems and ADHD can be a vicious circle. ADHD can lead to sleep problems, which in turn can make symptoms worse. Many children with ADHD will repeatedly get up after being put to bed and have interrupted sleep patterns. Trying a sleep-friendly routine can help your child and make bedtime less of a battleground.

Try some meditation audio:

Help at school
Children with ADHD often have problems with their behaviour at school, and the condition can have a negative impact on a child’s academic progress. Speak to your child’s teachers or their school’s special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) about any extra support your child may need.


Looking after a child with ADHD can be challenging, but it is important to remember that they cannot help their behaviour.

Some issues that may arise in day-to-day life include:

  • getting your child to sleep at night
  • getting ready for school on time
  • listening to and carrying out instructions
  • being organised
  • social occasions
  • shopping


Childcare Brokerage

The broker acts as a middle person, helping, advising, searching and maybe negotiating on your behalf to help you find the childcare you need. This could be when you are looking for long term childcare or if you need short term, emergency or ad hoc childcare. Please note that the Childcare Brokerage service does not offer free childcare or provide funding towards childcare. Contact the Childcare Brokerage Service: Tel: 020 8547 6581 Email:


Family Information Service

Achieving for Children’s Family Information Service (FIS) offer a telephone, web and outreach service, providing information for parents, parents to be, carers and professionals to help support children up to their 20th birthday or 25th birthday if a child has a disability.


RUILS Sitting & Befriending Service

A service for young people with additional support needs such as ADHD in Richmond and Kingston Boroughs S&B RUILS POSTER


Working Families: is a charity which helps working parents and carers and their employers find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work. A Legal Helpline gives parents and carers advice on employment rights Tel: 0300 012 0312 e:

Worried about a child or young person’s behaviour or mental health? You’re not alone. Call the YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline free on 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm) or email


  • More ways to help children with ADHD

    Verbal instructions

    • Keep instructions brief and clear.
    • Say the child’s name or tap them on the shoulder to make and keep eye contact when giving important information.
    • Ask your child to repeat the instruction to make sure they have taken it in and understood.
    • Your child may need prompting, monitoring and encouragement to keep them focused on tasks.

    Written work

    • Highlight important points in written information using *asterisks*, CAPITAL LETTERS or bold text.
    • Limit the amount of information that needs to be copied from a black or white board. Instead, give ‘hand out’ sheets with this information.

    Other learning strategies

    • Provide one-to-one instruction as often as possible.
    • A class ‘buddy’, who gets along well with the child, can be helpful to reinforce instructions and directions.
    • Make sure activities have plenty of ‘hands on’ involvement.
    • Schedule the most important learning to take place during the child’s best concentration time(s). This is usually in the morning.
    • Give a checklist for what the child needs to do.
    • Physical environment:
      • Sit them near the front of the classroom.
      • Plan seating and furniture carefully to decrease distractions. For example, sit the child near classmates who will be good role models.
      • A quiet place without clutter is important for homework.

    Reducing over-activity and fatigue

    • Build rest-breaks into activities. For example, a five minute break for each 30 minutes of activity.
    • Alternate academic tasks with brief physical exercise. For example, the child could do structured tasks or errands such as delivering notes or taking lunch orders.
    • Prepare a number of low-pressure fun activities for when the child needs to spend a few minutes calming down.

    Keeping structure

    Children with ADHD can struggle with changes to routine and need to know what to expect. The following strategies can help:

    • Have a fixed routine.
    • Keep classroom activities well organised and predictable.
    • Display the daily schedule and classroom rules. For example, attach a flowchart to the inside of the child’s desk or book.
    • Tell the child in advance (whenever possible) of a change in the schedule.
    • Give the child advance warning of changes. For example: ‘in five minutes you will have to put your work away’, and remind them more than once.
    • Keep choices to a minimum.


    • Encourage the child to take part in activities where they will experience success.
    • Set achievable goals.
    • Acknowledge their achievements by congratulating them verbally and in written ways such as notes or certificates.
    • Focus their attention on the good parts of their written work. For example, use a highlighter pen on the best sections of the child’s work.
    • Help them feel important in the classroom. For example, acknowledging their effort to do a task even if they don’t succeed.
    • Near the end of the day, review with the child their accomplishment/s for that day.
    • Attend to learning difficulties as soon as possible to restore self-confidence.

    Social skills

    • Involve the child in smaller groups of no more than two other children, instead of larger groups, whenever possible.
    • Reward appropriate behaviour such as sharing and cooperating.
    • Teach the child appropriate responses when they feel provoked. For example, teach them to walk away or talk to the teacher.
    • Encourage the child to join activities where ‘supervised socialisation’ is available, such as Scouts/Girl Guides or sporting groups.
    • Talk with the child about the consequences of their actions upon themself and upon others.
    • Use visual prompts to remind the child to think before they act. For example, ‘STOP, THINK, DO’.

    Communication between home and school

    • Use a school-home daily communication book.
    • Communicate both positive aspects of day and inappropriate behaviour.
    • Teachers – be sensitive to parents’ feelings. They have the difficult task of raising a child with ADHD.
    • Teachers – help parents feel proud of their child. Find positive things to share with them about their child on a regular basis. This can be done in front of the child.

    To help to encourage the child to complete homework parents can:

    • Make the work environment attractive but not too distracting.
    • Have regular scheduled time for homework.

    Key points to remember

    • Acknowledge and reward achievements and positive behaviour often.
    • Attend to learning difficulties as soon as possible.
    • A quiet place without clutter is important for homework.
    • Talk with the child about the consequences of their actions.
    • Medication, positive parenting strategies, school support and counselling can help most children with ADHD and their families.



  • Some learning and attention issues can lead to specific social challenges.
  • Difficulty making friends can cause children to lose self-confidence.
  • There are strategies that can help your child build social skills.

Why can’t my child make friends? This can be a difficult question to ask yourself. But if your child rarely gets invited on playdates and spends most of his time alone at home, it can be hard not to wonder—and worry.

For children of all ages, friendships offer the acceptance, approval and sense of belonging they crave. If your child struggles to connect with others and form friendships, it can be a blow to his self-esteem. It can leave him feeling alone and frustrated.

What Can Cause Trouble With Making Friends

If your child has a hard time making friends, it may have nothing to do with his personality. Trouble with forming friendships can be the result of learning and attention issues. Some learning and attention issues have a direct impact on social skills. Some affect communication skills or listening comprehension skills, which can make conversation difficult. And others create a variety of behaviors that can get in the way of making friends.

ADHD: Children with ADHD may lack self-control, be overactive, talk too much, talk without thinking or not pay attention to what other people are saying.

Executive functioning issues: Children with executive functioning issues may have trouble sharing, taking turns, controlling emotions and accepting other viewpoints.

Nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD): Children with NVLD may miss social cues like body language, expression and tone of voice. They may not understand humour or sarcasm and may take what others say too literally.

Language disorders: Children with language disorders may not understand the rules of conversation or may have trouble finding the right words. They may avoid talking when around other kids.

Auditory processing disorder (APD): Children with APD may miss the point of what others are saying, miss words in conversation or have trouble following the directions in games.

Trouble Making Friends: A Common Problem

Not all children with learning and attention issues struggle to make friends. For some, social skills are their strength! But if it’s a trouble spot for your child, he’s not alone. Childen with learning and attention issues often face social challenges. When compared with their peers, studies have shown they’re more likely to be:

  • Poorly accepted by their peers
  • Socially alienated from teachers and classmates
  • Viewed by teachers as lacking social skills
  • Not chosen to play or join in group activities
  • Willing to conform to peer pressure

Children can feel that they don’t “fit in” at school or at outside activities. They may even feel that way at home with siblings.

It’s a very real issue because many with learning and attention issues do stand out sometimes. They may require additional time and attention from teachers, parents and others. They may call negative attention to themselves by asking inappropriate questions, seeming uninterested in conversations, and interrupting or moving around a lot at the wrong times. Others may react badly or turn away.

How Friend Troubles Can Impact Your Child

Your child may be resilient and bounce back from social setbacks. Or he may enjoy spending a lot of time alone. But for many, difficulty making friends can have negative effects. It can hurt their self-esteem, wear down their confidence and keep them from trying new activities. They may feel self-conscious, sad, angry, helpless or hopeless. It can be hard for children to manage these intense feelings and find ways to cope. Encouraging your child to talk about his feelings can help him feel better about himself. Just knowing he can come to you for support and comfort can make a big difference.

Ways You Can Help

If your child feels his learning and attention issues are making him stand out, there are ways you can help. Talking to your child’s teacher is a good first step. The teacher may be able to find ways to put your child in positive group experiences or match him up with classmates who are more accepting and share his interests.

At home, you can work on changing the dynamic between your child and his siblings. You can also try to change the way you respond so your child isn’t singled out as much. And you can take steps to make social events like playdates and sleepovers more successful for your child.

If you see that your child is struggling with his emotions, you might want to consider counselling. Learn more about how to help your child build communication skills, improve social cues and become more resilient. Strengthening those skills may give him the confidence to try new ways to connect with other kids.

Key Takeaways

  • Learning and attention issues like ADHD and auditory processing disorder can affect a child’s ability to make friends.
  • Poor social skills can make kids feel sad, embarrassed and isolated.
  • You and your child’s teacher can help him improve his social skills and connect with other kids.

The US organisation CHADD has some more useful parental guidance here


Transition from Child to Adult services. Read these UKAAN recommendations