Updated 17 July 2017


ADHD has received a great deal of attention in the media. Unfortunately this has led to frequent misdiagnosis. Here are a few pointers to help you identify ADHD in children.

Characteristics of ADHD

Here are some of the most common characteristics of ADHD.

Hyperactivity includes:

  • overactivity,
  • fidgeting most of the time,
  • squirming in their seat,
  • purposeless or non-goal directed activity,
  • goes from one activity to another without completing activities.

Distractibility includes:

  • inattention,
  • very distractible,
  • does not complete tasks,
  • lacks selective attention,
  • unable to concentrate (unless fascinated by a subject),
  • tendency to daydream.

Impulsivity includes:

  • demands must be met immediately and needs immediate reward for achievement,
  • poor planners,
  • lack of organisational skills,
  • lack of self-control,
  • does things without thinking of consequences.

Adapted from: Guidelines for Parents of Children with ADHD by Barry Zworestine (clinical psychologist) and Karin Seydel (educational and counselling psychologist).

What should I do if I suspect my child has ADHD?

Many restless and rowdy children are misdiagnosed with ADHD. A proper diagnosis of ADHD requires a comprehensive and multidisciplinary evaluation. It will be important to consult with teachers, a doctor, psychologist and other professionals.

The role of the doctor:

The doctor has to take a thorough medical and family history and should do a physical and neurological examination. It may be necessary to do tests to exclude medical illnesses that could masquerade as ADHD. If the child needs medication, the doctor will have to supervise and monitor it.

The teacher:

The teacher should evaluate and monitor the child's behaviour, work completion, achievement and social interaction.

The psychologist and other associated professionals:

The psychologist should facilitate the information gathering process by liaising with parents, teachers and the doctor. S/he should also use a variety of psychological tests to measure IQ, social and emotional adjustment and specific learning disabilities.


Holistic intervention is the best and should include the following:

  • parent training with regard to management;
  • parent/child problem solving and communication training;
  • medication (if indicated);
  • teacher counselling about ADHD and training in classroom management;
  • social skills training in the classroom and at home;
  • individual therapy when justified;
  • parent/family interventions;
  • parent support groups.

Adapted from: Multidisciplinary Assessment of Attention Disorders by Barry Zworestine and Karin Seydel.

Parenting a child with ADHD

Consistence is the key to success in effective parenting. Give love and attention with firm limit setting. Be positive with your child. Tell him/her what you want, not what you don't want.

The emphasis should be on what is to be done as opposed to what is to be stopped. Don't punish your child for things beyond his/her control, such as impulsive behaviour or inattention.

A child with ADHD frequently fails to meet demands. He/she must have the chance to try again, succeed and receive your praise.

Set up specified time periods for waking, bedtime, chores, homework, playtime, TV time, etc. Explain changes in routine ahead of time. Set up clear and concise rules of behaviour for the whole family, with consequences for breaking rules. Instructions must be clear and simple. Ask your child to repeat instructions.

Your child must have a quiet, special place in which to do homework undisturbed. Stimulation should be kept at a low level, such as playing with one friend at a time and one game at a time. Say what you need to say, but say it once, briefly, clearly and calmly. Act - don't yak.

Allow your child choices within limits. Teach appropriate verbal communication skills. Be aware of the difference between incompetent behaviour (this must be educated) and non-compliant behaviour (this must have firm limit setting and consequences).

Try to see the world through the eyes of your child. Join an Effective Parenting class or support group. Develop your skills in behaviour modification, token reward systems and positive reinforcement.

Adapted from: Guidelines for Parents of Children with ADHD by Barry Zworestine (clinical psychologist) and Karin Seydel (educational and counselling psychologist).

Interesting books on ADHD:

Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors Aren't Telling You about Stimulants and ADHD

ADHD in children and adults


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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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