Parents and Caregivers

Frequently asked questions

ADHD is a developmental disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common mental health condition in children and is present in most countries around the world. Although there is an abundance of literature on ADHD with plenty of scientific information, this condition remains controversial and often under diagnosed. – ADHD Go-To Guide

ADHD is not a new condition and has been described in children for over 100 years.

Children with ADHD may experience difficulties with:

  • Inattention – having difficulty concentrating, forgetting instructions, moving from one task to another without completing anything
  • Impulsivity – such as talking over the top of others, having a ‘short fuse’, being accident prone
  • Overactivity – constant restlessness and fidgeting
  • Insatiability – rarely satisfied, interrogates people, generates tension and is unaware of when to let a matter drop
  • Social Navigation – misreads social cues, can be overpowering and demands attention
  • Poor coordination – uncoordinated and clumsy, an awkward flow of movement or has difficulty doing multiple tasks, often with messy handwriting
  • Disorganisation – does not recognise ‘mess’, tends to lose belongings and is often forgetful. My have difficulty structuring their schoolwork, getting started on homework and projects
  • Variability – fluctuates between good and bad days, has severe mood swings and can be quite volatile
  • Difficulty with time management – limited awareness of time passing and may have poor time management skills

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Like most psychiatric conditions, there is no blood test, brainwave test or brain-imaging procedure that can reliably diagnose ADHD. There is no ‘quick test’ for ADHD and can only be diagnosed by a specialist through a detailed assessment including a clinical interview, examination and exclusion of other disorders. Specialists need to collect a range of information about the child – especially from parents or carers and the child’s school. For ADHD to be diagnosed, the symptoms of ADHD must be obvious in most areas of the child’s life and have been present before the age of 12 years and for longer than a period of 6 months with a noticeable impact on their daily function.

A valuable assessment tool for ADHD is a neuropsychological assessment. This is an assessment made up of scientific tests that measure mental capabilities, cognitive strengths, and behavioural styles.

To include medication as part of a treatment plan for ADHD symptoms and behaviours, a Developmental Paediatrician or Child/Adolescent Psychiatrist can formalise an ADHD diagnosis and prescribe medication.

If you are concerned about your child, we recommend seeing your family GP for advice. The role of the GP is to help you with referrals to specialists, monitor physical and mental health, implement Medicare support, screen for other conditions, and liaise with schools, specialists and psychologists.

Frequently Asked Questions

I heard that ADHD is a Neurodevelopmental Disorder. What is that?

“Neurodevelopmental Disorder” is an umbrella-term for conditions that affect the growth or development of the brain or central nervous system. A condition like this usually manifests early in child’s development before the child enters primary school. The disorder is characterised by developmental deficits that produce impairments of personal, social, academic, or occupational functioning.

Is ADHD a learning disorder?

The short answer is, “no”. However, ADHD includes impairment in one or more processes related to perceiving, thinking, remembering, or learning, so it may be more useful to view ADHD as a learning disorder. In doing so, it is important to acknowledge that it differs from currently recognised reading or non-verbal learning disorders.

Is everybody with ADHD hyperactive?

No, there is more than one subtype of ADHD. Those diagnosed with Predominantly Inattentive Subtype have no symptoms of hyperactivity.

Where does ADHD come from?

Research shows that ADHD tends to run in families, so there are likely to be genetic influences. Children who have ADHD usually have at least one close relative who has ADHD, and at least a third of fathers who had ADHD in their youth have children with ADHD. Even more convincing of a possible genetic link is that when one twin of an identical twin pair has the disorder, the other is likely to have it too.

Is it possible to “grow out” of ADHD?

ADHD symptoms evolve over time (for example, hyperactivity and fidgeting commonly decrease with age), but the condition is rarely outgrown. In fact, many people are not diagnosed until adulthood. However, in many cases, with support, treatment, and management strategies, ADHD can be effectively navigated to the point where the condition appears to be outgrown.

What is involved in the diagnosis of ADHD?

There is no simple “test” for ADHD. The diagnosis of ADHD is a clinical diagnosis made using well-tested diagnostic interview methods. Diagnosis is based on history, the description of symptoms, observable behaviours in at least two separate settings (school, work, and home), and the exclusion of other conditions that may mimic ADHD.

Diagnosis should include input from parents, teachers, and others who may be interacting with the child or adult. The process will also consider conditions which may accompany ADHD, and the additional impacts this will have on the person. For example, depression, anxiety, learning difficulties, developmental status, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

Is ADHD caused by too much sugar or food colouring?

While it is common for children to display hyperactive tendencies following the consumption of high volumes of sugar, this is often fleeting, and different to ADHD. The current weight of evidence indicates that ADHD is not caused by too much sugar or food colourings in the diet.

What about general diet? Does that play a role in ADHD?

Although a small body of research suggests some children may benefit from nutritional interventions, delaying the implementation of well-established, effective interventions to engage in unproven methods is likely to be harmful for children.

There are no well-established nutritional interventions proven to be effective for assisting the majority of children with ADHD, especially in the long-term. In other words, it is thought that diet does not play a role in the cause or management of ADHD.

There is no doubt that some foods affect behaviour, but food allergens or intolerances are not ADHD. ADHD and food chemical intolerance may co-exist as two separate conditions, just as ADHD and Asthma may co-exist, and ADHD symptoms may be worsened by the other condition and vice versa.

Inattention criteria for diagnosing ADHD in children

A child with symptoms of inattention may, on a regular basis:

  • not give close attention to details, or make seemingly careless mistakes in school work or other activities
  • have difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • not follow through on instructions
  • not finish school work, chores or other duties (but not because they are being wilful or do not understand instructions)
  • have difficulty organising tasks and activities
  • avoid, dislike or be unwilling to do tasks that need continuing mental effort (such as school work or homework)
  • lose things needed for tasks or activities (such as toys, school assignments, pencils, books or tools)
  • be easily distracted
  • be forgetful in daily activities.

A child with six or more of these symptoms of inattention for at least six months (to a degree that interferes with their everyday life and is inconsistent with the usual developmental level of a child their age) may be diagnosed with the inattention aspect of ADHD.

Can ADHD WA prescribe medication to treat ADHD?

No. The prescribing of stimulant medicines is restricted to medical practitioners who are:

• authorised in writing by the Department of Health;
• practicing in Western Australia;
• in a category of approved specialist medical practitioner; and
• treating approved indications.

Medical practitioners approved to prescribe stimulant medication to treat ADHD include:

  • Paediatrician
  • Child and adolescent psychiatrist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Neurologist
  • Paediatric neurologist

With a shortage of ADHD treating specialists across WA, once you have booked your assessment with us, we recommend booking visiting your GP for a referral to an approved medical practitioner for 6-8 weeks after your assessment date. This allows time for you to receive your report and will help reduce a wait time to see a specialist once you receive the results of your neuropsychological assessment, should your assessment indicate ADHD.  Be sure to research and find an available specialist before visiting your GP for the referral.

Hyperactivity-impulsivity criteria for diagnosing ADHD in children

Hyperactivity-impulsivity criteria for diagnosing ADHD

  • A child with symptoms of hyperactivity may often:
  • fidget with their hands or feet or squirm in their seat
  • leave their seat in the classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • run about or climb excessively in inappropriate situations
  • have difficulty playing or taking part in leisure activities quietly
  • be ‘on the go’ or act as if ‘driven by a motor’
  • talk more than average.

A child with symptoms of impulsivity may often:

  • answer before questions have been completed
  • have difficulty waiting in turn
  • interrupt or intrude on others (for example, interrupting conversations or games).

A child with six or more of these symptoms for at least six months (to a degree that interferes with their everyday life and is inconsistent with the usual developmental level of a child their age) may be diagnosed with the hyperactivity-impulsivity aspect of ADHD.

Other criteria for diagnosing ADHD in children

Other criteria for diagnosing ADHD may include:

  • some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms that caused impairment before the child reached the age of seven years
  • impairment from the symptoms in two or more settings, such as at school and at home
  • symptoms that cannot be explained by another disorder (such as mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma, dissociative disorder or a personality disorder).
Types of ADHD
  • ADHD combined type – if the child meets the criteria for both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity for the past six months
  • ADHD predominantly inattentive type – if the child meets the criteria for inattention, but not the criteria for hyperactivity-impulsivity, for the past six months
  • ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type – if the child meets the criteria for hyperactivity-impulsivity, but not the criteria for inattention, in the past six months.

Information from