ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting 5% of the UK population. The three main features of the symptomology of ADHD are Inattention, Hyperactivity and Impulsivity. However, not all children and young people with ADHD will experience challenges in all of these areas. This is represented in the three classifications of different “types” of ADHD within the ICD 10 and APA Diagnostic Manual (DSM V). This is outlined below.
How might inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity present in an educational setting?
Are there differences in the ADHD brain?
ADHD is associated with lower levels and utility of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline. Dopamine is closely associated with reward, motivation, emotional regulation, memory, and learning. We all naturally need dopamine – especially when engaged in tasks that require sustained concentration. We also produce dopamine when we exercise, eat, experience intimacy, listen to music we like and when we experience novel situations and novel learning. When we understand the role of dopamine in the brain, then we can understand why children and young people with ADHD can be highly distractible, constantly seeking new stimuli and experiences and presenting with difficulties with activities that they are not particularly interested in.
Executive Functioning and ADHD
The executive functions are sometimes referred to as “the management system of the brain.” These functions help us to control our impulses, attention and emotions, to set goals, plan, organise and then use goal directed behaviour to complete tasks. We use these skills in every area of our lives. In neurotypical children, the executive functions develop quickly in early childhood, through adolescence and are still developing up to the mid-20s. For children who are neurodiverse, there is a delay in the development of the executive functions and they can often be challenging for people throughout their lives.
How can you make your school more ADHD friendly?
What are the positives of ADHD?
There are many positives that can be associated with ADHD. For example, Hyperactivity can be viewed as being energetic, as having drive and enthusiasm. Impulsivity can also be viewed as decisiveness – willing to take a chance, seize an opportunity. Inattention and mind wandering can be viewed as having an imagination that is looking for ideas, inspiration, new experiences and curiosity. ADHD does not define you; it is an explanation about how your unique mind works. It is an insight into how you interact with the world you live in, and how you interact with and relate to the people who inhabit your world.
When we reframe the way we think about ADHD, we can start to unlock the positive potential that individuals who think differently can possess!
Education Training Director and Therapeutic Practitioner
ADHD Foundation - The Neurodiversity Charity