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A Guide to ADHD in Children and How to Make a Positive Difference

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect a child's behaviour in different ways. Read our guide to ADHD in children and how to support them.

October 10 2022 - 5 min read

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition, thought to be caused either by a child's genetics, or by their brain function and structure.

For children with ADHD, it can often affect their behaviour and concentration in a number of possible ways:

Issues with sleep

A child with ADHD will often struggle to get to sleep as well as find it difficult to stay asleep. It can appear as though they require less sleep than other children.

Concentration difficulties and restlessness 

Concentrating on a task such as learning can prove difficult with ADHD. Children can find it hard to sit still and will be easily distracted, as well as finding it difficult to retain information.

Children with ADHD will often be restless and appear fidgety.

Difficulties with listening 

Another challenge faced by children with ADHD is focusing on listening and following instructions. As a result, simple step by step tasks and school activities can be more of a challenge.

Lack of impulse control 

ADHD affects the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for impulse control. This means that children can be very talkative, interruptive, and can display impulsive or risk-taking behaviour.

Emotional and social challenges 

A child with ADHD can struggle to manage their emotions. They can often become angry or frustrated. As a result of the challenges they face, they can also find it difficult to make friends or maintain friendships.


Children with ADHD require more support to keep organised. They will often lose things, be forgetful, and struggle with keeping on time.

It is important to recognise that each child is an individual so will experience ADHD differently and face their own specific challenges.

Supporting a child with ADHD

Living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be difficult, as the symptoms can make everyday activities more of a challenge. As a foster parent caring for a child with ADHD, there are ways in which you can have a positive difference in supporting their behaviour; making everyday tasks less stressful and family life run a lot smoother. Here are 9 recommendations for supporting a child with ADHD:

1. Plan ahead

Make sure you create simple routines and plan each day so that your foster child knows what to expect. A wall chart or timetable could be useful for this and help a child manage day to day activities.

2. Have clear boundaries

As a foster parent, you will be used to setting boundaries with the children in your care. Having clear and consistent boundaries helps a child with ADHD to know what is expected of them; with positive behaviour recognised and appropriate consequences for boundaries that are crossed.

3. Give a child instructions

When asking your foster child to do something or supporting them with a task, be sure to give specific instructions. For example, instead of asking a child to get ready for school, try asking them to put their clothes on, and then ask them to brush their teeth.

Keep guidance simple and straightforward, and use visual aids if needed.

4. Create a bedtime routine 

It can be helpful to set a clear bedtime routine. Where possible, try to stick to the same time each night, and avoid any activities such as playing computer games or watching TV before bed that can be overstimulating for a child with ADHD.

5. Encourage exercise

It is important for all children to get lots of physical activity, but this can be particularly helpful for children with ADHD. Exercise such as walking, running, jumping and playing sports can help them burn off energy and improve their quality of sleep.

6. Ensure good nutrition 

A healthy, balanced diet is beneficial for any child. Certain foods, however, can increase behaviours such as hyperactivity so keep an eye on your child consuming foods that contain high levels of sugar, additives and caffeine.

7. Support social situations

A child with ADHD will benefit from shorter social interactions to enable them to focus so when arranging activities, keep timings short where possible. It can also help to be mindful of things that may trigger their behaviours, such as ensuring your child is not hungry, overstimulated or tired.

8. Help with school

ADHD can cause issues in a child's education. The difficulties they experience and their presenting behaviour can often affect their learning and progress at school.

Gain advice from your social worker on how you can support your child with their schooling. There will be an education plan in place and meetings will be held with the school and their special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) about any extra support required.

9. Be positive

A child with ADHD will be blessed with many positives; such as energy, enthusiasm, creativity, flexibility and resilience. It is important to remember these when supporting the child in your care, and give specific praise so they feel supported, loved and valued.

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