Mainly affects children and adolescents. It is a condition where a child or young person finds it very hard to concentrate or focus for any length of time and is impulsive and excessively active in most situations. Come children may have a major attention problem without being hyperactive. You will sometimes see the term ‘ADD’ which simply means ‘attention deficit disorder’.


The exact cause of ADHD is unknown. Children with ADHD have trouble processing messages from their brain which may work a little differently from other people’s. This may happen before birth or during infancy, or it may just be an individual variation. It does not seem to be caused by diet, yeast infections or allergies, though these may be contributing factors to the overall ‘picture’ of ADHD. There may also be an inherited or genetic component to ADHD.

Helping a child who has ADHD

Give instructions one at a time. Be specific and make eye contact. You may need to ask the child to repeat what you’ve said to them.


Some of the signs include impulsive behaviour;
• short attention span
• inability to sit still
• inability to ‘wait their turn’
• constantly interrupting
• being easily upset and finding it hard to make or keep friends

One major indicator that these signs are ADHD (and not some other difficulty) is when the child’s behaviour patterns are similar at home and in most other situations. The signs must be longstanding and severe enough to be a major problem to the child and family.*

More Information

  • Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand:
    ☎ (09) 300 7030 / Fax (09) 300 7020
  • ADHD Association
    ☎ (09) 623 5380 / Fax (09) 623 4051
(*Mental Health Foundation of NZ)