Overactivity and poor concentration

All children and young people may experience problems with concentration and hyperactivity but when these are persistent and/or severe, they may need additional support to maximise their chances of learning and developing effectively.

Overactivity and poor concentration

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) include persistent symptoms of impulsivity, inattention and also, with ADHD, hyperactivity.

These conditions can be difficult to identify, but usually:

  • Begin before the age of 12
  • Should be visible in at least two settings (e.g. home and school).
  • Can sometimes negatively affect school performance and relationships with peers/school staff.
  • Cannot be better explained solely by an alternative mental health or child development problem (e.g. mood, conduct problems or speech and language difficulties).

If children and young people are diagnosed early, they can receive the appropriate support to help them properly manage their condition. However, children and young people with ADD or ADHD often go undiagnosed – they may be labelled as disobedient or rebellious, and not be properly assessed for the condition until later in life.

Identifying the signs

Symptoms of ADD and ADHD may differ depending on a student’s age, but they can include:

  • being restless or fidgety
  • struggling to sit still
  • talking a lot and interrupting
  • difficulties taking turns in games or conversation
  • becoming easily distracted
  • difficulties paying attention and concentrating
  • not following through on instructions or failing to finish work
  • social clumsiness
  • impulsive behaviour – saying or doing things without thinking

Children and young people with ADD and ADHD have particular difficulties with the thought processes that control attention and organise memory. This means that they often experience learning difficulties at school, for example:

  • Missing important details about homework or classwork or timetable.
  • Starting tasks before they have understood what’s required or listened to all the instructions.
  • Being unable to organise themselves and their school assignments properly.
  • Difficulty revising for, and sitting, exams.

Find out more about ADHD

MindEd is a free educational e-learning resource for professionals on children and young people’s mental health. These sessions aim to help staff better understand ADHD and hyperactivity:

Top tips

Distinguish between hyperactivity and defiance

A student with ADHD may look as if they are being defiant because of their hyperactivity. Consider the need for additional support in the classroom to support them.

Make adjustments where possible

Provide students with movement breaks, think about where they sit in the classroom and break tasks down into smaller chunks to make them more manageable.

Maintain communication

Make sure there is good communication between school, home and the health/educational professionals working with the child or young person so they receive the best possible support from everyone.

What schools and further education settings can do

Concerned about a child or young person?

If you are worried that a child or young person is at risk involve your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority who will contact the parents/carers and other services as necessary. If the child or young person is at immediate risk, ensure that they are taken to their GP or A&E as a matter of urgency, depending on the severity of the concern.

Related resources

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Stories that never stand still: a young person’s guide to ADHD

Stories that never stand still: a young person’s guide to ADHD

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A young person’s guide to thriving with ADHD

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