Skip to main content


For Parents

There a many reasons for children to show these behaviors but one of the first steps for parents would be to check with others about their observations.  It is important to know whether these behaviours are more common in your child than are seen with most other children.  Teachers and day care staff can often provide helpful comparisons with other children.  Remember that at an early preschool age, it is developmentally normal for children to have shorter attention spans and more impulsive behaviour.   Therefore, age and comparison standards with other children are important in judging these behaviors.

If comparisons still suggest more difficulties than other children or the parent still has unanswered questions about the observations, then the observations and questions can be reviewed with the family physician.  This can start a process of further investigations.  Often the unstated question in the minds of parents is “Does my child have attention deficit disorder?”

Signs and Symptoms

Children may show difficulties focusing and restless behaviour for many reasons other than attention deficit disorder.  These include: presence of a learning disability, recent stress in life (e.g. separation or loss of a family member, recent trauma), other illnesses (anemia, thyroid difficulties), hearing or vision impairment, substance use disorders, adverse effects of medication, sleep problems, movement disorders and in certain environments such as boredom in a very high functioning child.  Family doctors and other professionals can help determine what is happening for you and your child.    This will usually require a careful history, the use of questionnaires, a review of previous reports from child care and school settings and a physical examination.  An assessment may mean further investigations and consultations to arrive at a complete understanding of which single or combination of causes appear to explain the behaviours in your child.  It is important diagnose and treat all disorders and diseases, including attention deficit disorder.  

Getting Help

For attention deficit disorder treatment may include further reading and resources to understand the diagnosis, training in child management strategies such as Incredible Years classes or Strongest Families, strategies to use in the school setting and, usually, stimulant medication.  Medication is the single most effective treatment and gives the child a firm foundation to help them manage their attention, activity levels and impulse control.  Once children can focus better and become less impulsive and hyperactive they are able to do better in school, with peers and within the family.  The child builds competence and confidence.  Stimulant medication has been in use for over 75 years and is among the most widely studied medications of all medications that are used for any reason with children.  

For youth

Lots of kids and teens find it hard to sit still and focus. You might feel like you need to get up and run around, or jump or yell.  It might be difficult to listen to the teacher, finish your homework, or keep track of your stuff. 

If this is you, you could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is a problem with how the brain is wired. The good news is, it can be helped.

You might have felt like this since you were really little, or it could be a new thing. Either way, talk to your parents about getting help. Ask them to check out the information links on this page. There are lots of programs to help young people like you. 

The first step is to see if you really have ADHD.  It will be helpful to see a paediatrician. Other things can make it hard to sit still or pay attention. Like, if you’ve been sick or something stressful has happened in your life. So you want to make sure you have a proper diagnosis by a pediatrician.

If you do have ADHD, you might need to take medication. These medications are safe and can really make a big difference. There are also things you and your parents can do to help you learn to stay focused and keep organized.

Once you get the help you need, you will see a big change. It will be easier to focus in class and you will do better in school. You will also find it easier to make friends and get along with adults. When you are older, you will also find it easier to learn the skills you need to get a job you like.