ADHD: Less about the label, more about supporting the traits

During the work, I have done in training in schools with teaching staff and with families on the subject of ADHD always talk about children with ADHD and not ADHD children.

The key traits of ADHD are Impulsivity, Inattention, and Hyperactivity/Hypoactivity, and every child that is considered to be on the ADHD spectrum will manifest these traits to a different degree and intensity improving business operations.

The key is to consider how we can best support these traits in the present as well as the future.

Many parents have to battle and wait months for an assessment opportunity when they go through their local services. For many, it is a draining and frustrating experience. If parents decide to go through the private route they will often have to pay a significant fee to speed up the process.

In advance of this, I think it is important to speak to the school prior to arranging an assessment as there are a number of established standard practices and strategies for supporting children with ADHD traits.

The point is that you shouldn’t need to wait for ADHD label in order to provide a child who is fidgeting excessively in the classroom with a tangle tool or for someone who has difficulties with focus in the afternoon with an option to study in a work station with a headset.

As we are discussing a complex neurobiological condition that may, in some cases, require medication for treatment, the assessment of ADHD should ideally contain the following procedures:

  • Medical evaluation
  • Parent interview
  • Teacher interview 
  • Patient interview
  • Rating Scales
  • Computerised testing
  • Achievement testing
  • Intellectual testing

The most recent NICE guidelines updated Diagnosis of ADHD updated: 13 September 2019 states the following: 

“A diagnosis of ADHD should only be made by a specialist psychiatrist, pediatrician, or other appropriately qualified healthcare professional with training and expertise in the diagnosis of ADHD, on the basis of:

  • A full clinical and psychosocial assessment of the person; this should include discussion about behaviour and symptoms in the different domains and settings of the person’s everyday life and
  • A full developmental and psychiatric history and
  • Observer reports and assessment of the person’s mental state”.

It right and proper that takes time to undertake a comprehensive analysis and that this should be conducted by an experienced practitioner in order to establish an accurate assessment of a child’s learning, behavioural and socialisation profile.

For parents who are thinking about going for an assessment for their child, it is vital to approach the school in advance to ask what the school can do NOW and what will an assessment and possible diagnosis of ADHD provide in terms of what they may do differently in the future.

For this reason, it is important to remember not to focus on the label but to be actively supporting the child with ADHD traits right here, right now.


Please find details of my 6 X 30 webinar minute course called Supporting children with ADHD at school and at home:

Also, the recent 3 X 60 minute webinar series: Can’t Learn, Won’t Learn, Don’t Care

Also, please find my new 4 part presentation series with separate sessions specifically for SLT, Staff, Governors, and Parents called Managing Behaviour and reducing school exclusions