Overactivity and poor concentration

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

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 seven.
  • 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).

When children with early and severe behavioural problems are not properly supported it can have long-lasting effects on their ability to learn, form friendships and thrive. Studies also indicate that children are more likely to be excluded from schools without adjustments and support. More boys than girls tend to be diagnosed with ADHD. It also has a strong genetic component – so other family members may also struggle in similar ways.

Spotting the signs

Symptoms can include:

  • being restless or fidgety
  • 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 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.

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 child with ADHD may look as if they are being defiant because of their hyperactivity. Using behaviour management activities, such as reward charts, can help.

Be aware of changes.

They may struggle with confidence and social interaction, so be alert to any challenges they may be having.

Maintain communication.

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

What schools can do

  • Early identification and support is important
  • Amongst other things, the ADHD Foundation notes that an ADHD-Friendly-school (AFS):
    • ensures that all staff implement AFS practice ensuring that if a child doesn’t respond to the way that they teach, then they need to change the way that they teach to ensure that learning takes place
    • expects high standards and believe that all pupils can make progress beyond their starting points
    • is one where all staff model positive behaviours and reward the behaviour they want to see more of
    • sees physical activity and nutrition as an important aspect of allowing the child to succeed and build this into their daily timetable
  • All children will benefit from schools delivering good quality teaching programmes supporting all children’s social and emotional skills. Some whole-school programmes have shown promise in reducing hyperactivity in children
  • Teaching staff will need to adapt the learning environment and their teaching style to compensate for regular distractions, limited organisational skills and poor concentration. A ‘strength-based approach’ can often help – focusing on what the child can do well and helping them to develop into a more confident learner.

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