ADHD

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ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a developmental disorder that is characterised by poor concentration, hyperactivity and impulse control.

ADHD features three types of symptoms:

  • Inattention, where a child might find it hard to focus and concentrate on tasks
  • Impulsivity, where they might say, think or do things before thinking them through
  • Hyperactivity, where they might find it hard to sit still for long periods of time

While it’s common for children to sometimes experience these symptoms, in children and adolescents with ADHD, these symptoms happen most of the time. This can have a big impact on their daily lives and ability to learn and socialise. 

The causes of ADHD are complex and not fully understood. ADHD can be tricky to diagnose as there are no clinical tests that can detect ADHD. However comprehensive clinical assessments conducted by a paediatrician, psychiatrist or psychologist have been shown to be reliable.

While treatment will often include medication and behavioural strategies, including cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for adolescents and adults, counselling is also helpful.

The earlier ADHD is diagnosed, the sooner children can receive a plan to manage symptoms.

 

Happy child with colourful stickers on face

Who does it affect?

Who does it affect?

  • Almost 800,000 Australians including about one in 20 children have ADHD. This equates to one child in every classroom.
  • ADHD is still under-diagnosed in Australia.
  • While children are usually diagnosed between the ages of five to 12, it is increasingly common for diagnosis to be made during adolescence and adulthood.
  • For a diagnosis to be made, symptoms must have been consistent for at least six months and must be causing significant impairment in at least two settings (e.g. home and school).
  • During childhood, ADHD is more common in boys than girls. Nearly 10 per cent of males aged 12 to 17 have ADHD in Australia compared to 2.7 per cent of females in the same age group. In adulthood, the numbers are much more even.

Our ADHD research

Our ADHD research

Our research focuses on developing a better understanding of underlying causes, impacts and interventions to reduce symptoms.

The Children’s Attention Project (CAP) looks at the long-term effects of attention and hyperactivity difficulties on children’s behaviour, learning and day-to-day living, plus their parents’ well-being. We recruited nearly 500 families of grade one children with and without ADHD. We’ve completed three follow-ups to see how mental health, academic and social outcomes vary over time and to identify risk factors and protective factors.

A sub-project is studying how the brain develops across childhood into early adolescence. As certain parts of the brain are important for attention, we hope to reveal how these develop and when, plus where the brain-behaviour interface goes awry. This includes identifying signs that distinguish children with ADHD and predict treatment response.

Studies show that 25 to 50 per cent of children with ADHD experience anxiety. The Calm Kids Study aims to see whether treating anxiety in children with ADHD improves anxiety and/or child and family functioning. The 10-session program teaches children and parents what anxiety is, including the causes and how they can lessen anxiety. To understand whether it helps, we’re comparing children who receive the intervention with those who do not. A pilot study showed improvements in child and family well-being including anxiety, ADHD symptom severity, quality of life and parent mental health.

 

Our vision

Our vision

We want to improve the lives of children with ADHD and level the playing field with their peers. Ensuring they are assessed and treated will improve educational outcomes, job prospects and socialisation. Our research aims to provide evidence for policy decisions and improve diagnosis and treatments.