ADHD in children and adolescents

To get started, consider watching this quick, 2-minute video  from the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC).
ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders, but it doesn’t strictly affect children. Recent studies have shown that about two-thirds of children with ADHD will be impaired by symptoms into adulthood.
To help kids learn about ADHD, CADDAC has also created an animated series.

Understanding ADHD

Symptoms and causes
No one knows the exact causes of ADHD.
Many studies indicate that neurological factors may play a role.
Genetic factors are also involved. In fact, many adults are diagnosed with ADHD after their children are diagnosed!
Environmental factors may also contribute.
There are three core symptoms of ADHD, which may present differently as a child gets older. These are:
Hyperactivity and impulsivity
In childhood:
  • Fidgeting and squirming
  • Is "on the go"
  • Talking excessively
  • Interrupting others
  • Unable to wait his or her turn
In teens:
  • Talking excessively
  • Having anger-management issues
  • Interrupting others
  • Engaging in risky behaviour, such as taking sexual risks or doing extreme sports
  • "Self-medicating" with alcohol or illicit drugs
Inattention
In childhood:
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Does not finish tasks
  • Not well organized
  • Loses belongings
  • Easily distracted
In teens:
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Does not finish tasks
  • Not well organized
  • Loses belongings
  • Easily distracted
If some of these symptoms align with your child’s behaviour, learn more about how to evaluate your child for ADHD.
Changes and transitions: Resources that may help
Did you know?
ADHD doesn’t just change based on age, it can also present differently in girls and boys!
Since girls tend to be quieter and less disruptive, they will often go undiagnosed until later in adolescence or adulthood.
They are also 5 to 9 times less likely to be referred to a specialist for treatment.
Girls with ADHD are more likely to have the inattentive subtype of ADHD and be socially withdrawn.
Boys are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, and are more likely to express aggressive or antisocial behaviour.
Find out more information on how ADHD in girls presents differently.
There are many common myths about ADHD, so it is important that you get the right resources.
Diagnosis
ADHD symptoms may vary from person to person, so it can be hard to diagnose. A diagnosis should be made by a qualified healthcare professional with training in mental health. Examples include:
Child and adolescent psychiatrist
Pediatrician
Family physician (with ADHD training)
Learn more about the team of healthcare professionals that can help diagnose your child.
Several symptoms of ADHD should be present for at least six months before the age of 12 and should occur in two or more settings (e.g., at home and school) for diagnosis.
Learn more about the ADHD assessment process here.
Did you know?

~70% of school-aged children with ADHD have mental health comorbidities, which may include oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD), anxiety, and depression.

Here’s a great way for you to summarize and track specific behaviour that you’re concerned about for your child’s ADHD journey—this will come in handy during your next appointment! Learn more.

Meet the Pattersons. Watch this animation with your family to better understand ADHD and its impact on the entire family.
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Managing ADHD

ADHD can affect all aspects of your child’s life, including home, school and relationships. As a parent, you can play a big role in helping your child manage their ADHD in these different settings.
Overcoming challenges: Tips and tricks
As much as this is a journey for your child, it’s also a journey for you to understand and accept your child’s ADHD. Children with ADHD need guidance, in addition to their management plan, and understanding to reach their full potential.
Knowledge

Understanding the disorder can help you realize that some of the problems are not "willful behaviour."

Resources to help:

Parents and caregivers learn about ADHD
Your children with ADHD understand their condition
Your teen to understand more about their ADHD
All children learn about ADHD

School and homework

School counsellors and teachers can tell you about the challenges your child or teen may face at school. See the downloadable resources section for additional tools to help.

Top tips for managing ADHD and schoolwork:

  • Have a quiet place for studying and taking tests
  • Reduce distractions
  • Provide clear and simple homework instructions
  • Break assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks

Additional challenges exist in the virtual learning world. Download a brochure on taking on a new school year with ADHD with tips on e-learning.

Activities and sports

Studies have shown that exercise and sports can help relieve stress and can improve your concentration throughout the day. Learn more.

Home and family life

Before a child is diagnosed, frustration, blame and anger may have built up within the family. There may be disruptions in daily routines or strained sibling relationships.

Tips to improve family life:

  • Learn about ADHD.
  • Listen to each other.
  • Family counselling with a certified professional can help.
  • Establish and stick to routines. Download a printable structured checklist.
  • Make sure your child knows that you love and support him or her unconditionally.

Tips on teen management.

Behaviour management

Children and teens with ADHD may become aggressive or be defiant towards authority. Social situations can also pose challenges.

Ways to help:

  • Behaviour modification, also called "behaviour therapy," is often recommended as part of a total treatment plan for people with ADHD.
  • Social skills training. Therapists can teach children social skills, such as waiting their turn, or listening to others, and how to react appropriately.
  • Parenting-skills training can help you learn how to encourage behaviour changes. Access Parenting Courses here.
  • You may also benefit from learning stress-management techniques to help you stay calm and deal with your own frustration.
Friends

Making friends does not come easy for everyone, and it can be especially challenging for those with ADHD. Learn more here.

You can also refer teens to ADHDandYou.ca/teen to learn more about life with ADHD.

Treatment options

Finding the right treatment may take time, but this is normal.
Treatment and support for ADHD can involve a number of healthcare professionals. In Canada, many of these services are covered by provincial health plans. Private health insurance plans may cover additional services. Ask your doctor or health insurance manager to find out more.
There are several types of ADHD medications available in Canada. Learn more here in the “ADHD Treatment” section.

The more involved you are with the decisions made about your treatment, the more likely you’ll be happy with them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something:

  • Make a list to get ready for your visit and put the most important points at the top. Things can easily be forgotten once talking starts.
  • Say what? To make sure your doctor has explained him or herself clearly, try repeating back what he or she has said and write things down.
To get more guidance on tools that may be best suited for your child to adapt to their environment and manage their ADHD, click here.
Did you know?
It’s important to define and celebrate strengths and success along your child’s ADHD treatment journey.
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Treatment and support for ADHD can involve a number of healthcare professionals. In Canada, many of these services are covered by provincial health plans. Private health insurance plans may cover additional services. Ask your doctor or health insurance manager to find out more.
Finding the right treatment may take time, but this is normal.

Resources

It may feel overwhelming as you start on your child’s ADHD journey, but there are lots of resources and support available!

Remember to bookmark this page so that you have access to helpful resources for future use!

Downloadable resources
ADHD storybooks

Hi, I’m Tommy!

I’m just a regular kid who has ADHD, just like you! I always have a lot to say, but sometimes it gets me into trouble. That’s when I can count on my pal, Flynn, to help me.

Note to Parents and Caregivers: Flynn is a supportive friend who can help your child better understand their ADHD diagnosis and the symptoms they’re experiencing.

I want to help you learn to manage your ADHD too!

Hi, I’m Tommy!

I’m just a regular kid who has ADHD, just like you! I always have a lot to say, but sometimes it gets me into trouble. That’s when I can count on my pal, Flynn, to help me.

ADHD – Info
Created and developed by Annick Vincent, physician-psychiatrist, Clinique FOCUS and collaborators, this site is dedicated to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This site contains advice and information for better understanding this disorder and the options available for better "dealing with ADHD", including pharmacological treatment options.
CADDRA Information for parents Resources for parents from CADDRA, a Canadian non-profit association. CADDRA is a coalition of health professionals who support patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and their families.
Children and Adults with A.D.D. (CH.A.D.D.)
CH.A.D.D. Canada is a charitable organization that aims to help support, educate, and ultimately better the lives of individuals with ADHD, and those who care for them.
CH.A.D.D. has chapters in communities across Canada, where support meetings are held regularly. CH.A.D.D. also sponsors various workshops, presentations and conferences, distributing the latest breakthroughs and techniques in dealing with or managing ADHD.
The Centre for ADHD/ADD Awareness, Canada> A national, not-for-profit organization providing leadership and support in awareness, education and advocacy for ADHD organizations and individuals across Canada.
The PANDA Association helps promote, inform, raise awareness, equip and develop specific and innovative services for people with ADHD, their families and their networks as well as stakeholders in order to demystify the problem, reduce prejudices and promote academic and social success.
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ADHD – Info
Created and developed by Annick Vincent, physician-psychiatrist, Clinique FOCUS and collaborators, this site is dedicated to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This site contains advice and information for better understanding this disorder and the options available for better "dealing with ADHD", including pharmacological treatment options.
The Centre for ADHD/ADD Awareness, Canada
A national, not-for-profit organization providing leadership and support in awareness, education and advocacy for ADHD organizations and individuals across Canada.
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