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ADHD in children – how to get help

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – also sometimes known as hyperkinetic disorder or attention deficit disorder (ADD) – is a disorder that affects behaviour and learning abilities in children. ADHD in children is a relatively common problem, affecting up to one in 20 children of school age. It is thought that genetics, low birth weight and exposure to toxins in the womb may contribute to the development of ADHD.  


ADHD in children is a worry for any parent. It is important to know that you can get help from the private healthcare sector as well as your own GP and the NHS. Private clinics and hospitals throughout the UK can help treat ADHD in children, and can care for you and your child to over several years as necessary.


What are the symptoms of ADHD in children? 

The symptoms associated with ADHD in children fall into three main categories:


  • inattentive symptoms such as being forgetful and easily distracted with an unusually short attention span

  • hyperactive symptoms such as being unable to sit still or play quietly or being generally overactive

  • impulsive symptoms such as not waiting their turn in queues or when talking


ADHD in children is usually mainly inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive but most children have a mixture of all three types of symptom.


Because the symptoms of ADHD in children are so variable, ADHD can sometimes go unnoticed. If left untreated, the symptoms of ADHD can affect children’s’ ability to learn and can impair their development. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for children with ADHD and private healthcare can mean shorter waiting times and less delay.


How is ADHD in children diagnosed? 

The first step, whether you opt for NHS or private treatment for ADHD is to have your child’s behaviour and medical history assessed. If ADHD is suspected, your child will be referred to a specialist. This could be a child psychologist, child psychiatrist or a paediatrician.


A diagnosis of ADHD in children is usually based on behaviour in different settings (such as home and school) after other causes such as hearing problems have been ruled out. Therefore, to get a firm diagnosis, your child’s specialist will need to spend time observing their behaviour and gaining insights from you and other people who know your child well. Some private specialist assessment centres may also perform psychological tests such as the Weschler test or a Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA) as part of the diagnosis.


What help is available for ADHD in children? 

Treatment for ADHD in children depends on the individual child and their symptoms, but most children benefit from a combination of different treatments:


  • Talking therapies such as behavioural counselling to help your child modify their behaviour and cope with their condition

  • Strategies for managing behaviour at home. Your child’s specialist may be able to help with this or put you in touch with support groups or classes to help you

  • Dietary changes such as cutting out sugar, caffeine or food additives or adding vitamin and mineral supplements and omega-3 can sometimes reduce symptoms of ADHD in children

  • Medicines that balance the levels of specific chemicals in the brain may sometimes be used to treatment ADHD in children, such as methylphenidate (eg Concerta XL), atomexetine and dexamfetamine


Private paediatric treatment for other behavioural disorders 

Other behavioural disorders in children can be treated privately, including autism spectrum disorders, conduct disorder (characterised by aggression and antisocial behaviour), childhood anxiety or depression, adjustment disorders (such as following a traumatic event or life change), and obsessive compulsive disorder.