How to help kids and teens with ADHD

How to help kids and adolescents with ADHD thrive

Dr. John Yozwiak

Dr. John A. Yozwiak

Written by Dr. John A. Yozwiak, a clinical psychologist at UK Adolescent Medicine.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, affects more than 10 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17. The condition is characterized by inattention, distractibility, and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Here’s what parents, teachers and other caregivers should know about ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD

With ADHD, several symptoms are present before the age of 12, and the symptoms can be present in two or more settings, such as at school and at home. In addition, the symptoms affect an adolescent’s functioning, including school performance or social behavior. Some symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Failing to give close attention to details.
  • Not appearing to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Not following through on instructions.
  • Difficulty with organization.
  • Losing things.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Fidgeting.
  • Inability to engage in leisure activities quietly.
  • Talking excessively.
  • Difficulty awaiting one’s turn.
  • Interrupting others.

Other conditions can occur alongside ADHD, including conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder (when kids are defiant or hostile toward authority figures), mood disorders, anxiety disorders, learning disorders and substance-use disorders.

ADHD treatment

Effective treatment can help kids and adolescents live normal, healthy lives.

Treatment typically consists of a combination of medication and psychosocial interventions. Psychosocial interventions include training parents and adolescents in problem-solving techniques and communication skills. In addition, parents can be trained in behavioral management, and teachers can be trained in classroom management.

These interventions can target some of the symptoms of ADHD, such as helping adolescents learn skills and strategies to improve organization and decrease forgetfulness. Treatment can also address any related conditions, such as mood disorders or anxiety disorders.

Suggestions for parents

Parents can help their adolescent with ADHD by:

  • Providing consistent and clear expectations for behavior.
  • Creating and following a daily structured routine.
  • Giving positive reinforcement for desirable behavior and negative consequences for undesirable behavior.
  • Using external reminders such as calendars and alarms for important events, activities or tasks.
  • Assisting in developing a system to improve organization.
  • Communicating regularly with teachers about functioning at school.

With the right combination of treatment and parent and teacher support, adolescents with ADHD can not only survive, but thrive.

Next steps:

  • The team at UK Adolescent Medicine has expertise in a wide range of adolescent concerns. We work to address each patient’s unique emotional, physical and psychological needs. Learn more.
  • For more insights and information related to the unique health concerns of teens and young adults, check out our adolescent medicine blog series.