Disorders of attention and concentration

Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder is a developmental disorder which predominantly affects boys and 1 in 7 of the overall population. It is a complex continuum disorder, which can therefore be experienced to any degree from mild to severe.

There are two sub-types:
1). Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) –passive-type
2). ADHD – active type.

It is usually recognised at an early age, although diagnosis is difficult before the age of 6 or 7 due to the activity of normally developing children overlapping with children with ADHD.

The over-riding features of ADHD are: 
  • Excessive hyperactivity 
  • Distractibility 
  • Hypersensitivity 
  • Poor concentration 
  • Poor control of emotional responses 
  • Poor organisational abilities 
ADHD is a clinical condition and is therefore necessary to be diagnosed by a specialist clinician, preferably a neurodevelopmental paediatrician or child psychiatrist. It is due to a reduction in neurochemicals within the brain which inhibit regulatory functions within the cerebral cortex. Although ADHD has a strong genetic link often running in families, it is thought that it can also be caused or exaserbated by diet, pre-natal alcohol and drug abuse, trauma, lead poisoning and possibly oxygen deprivation. 

Early Years/Pre-school
Inattentive type:  
  • May appear unresponsive and concerns may be evident about hearing 
  • May seem disinterested in playing with other children, preferring to play alone 
  • May appear slow to respond to instructions 
  • May appear forgetful or distant
  • May be late learning to talk
  • May be late in developing self-help skills such as using the toilet independently 
Hyperactive Type: 
  • Excessive activity – always on the go 
  • May find it hard to sit still 
  • May react excessively and out of proportion to stimuli/sensations e.g. falling over, spiders... 
  • May appear impatient 
  • Moves between activities quickly not giving appropriate time and concentration 
  • May be a chatterbox 
  • May leave things untidily 
  • May become easily distracted forgetting what they were doing 
  • May dominate activities and always cause problems 
Primary Years:
Inattentive Type: 
  • May seem in his/her own world and daydreaming 
  • May appear forgetful 
  • May appear not to hear or be able to follow instructions 
  • May lose or misplace equipment/apparatus 
  • Difficulties in finishing work 
  • May take longer than peers to finish work 
  • May seem vague and passive 
  • May appear to make careless mistakes 
  • May read passively, not taking in the information when reading
Hyperactive Type: 
  • Restlessness persists 
  • Turn taking and calling out may be a problem 
  • May become aggressive to peers 
  • Often out of seat 
  • May be loud and appear not to understand social cues
  • May be forgetful 
  • Impulsive, acting before thinking 
  • Excitable and noisy 
  • May find it hard to stay focussed and concentrate for a length of time 
  • Easily distracted 
  • May repeat the same mistake 
  • May appear to understand but have forgotten the next day 
  • Makes mistakes due to rushing work 
  • Finds it hard to calm down 
  • May fiddle with things constantly 
  • Excessively chatty
Secondary Years:
Inattentive Type: 
  • Daydreaming and in a world of their own 
  • Switches off and misses key information
  • Difficulty in finishing work during the allotted time
  • Lateness for lessons 
  • Forgets homework/equipment/where they have put things
  • Often loses things such as equipment 
  • May appear to wander off during conversations 
  • May take time to respond to questioning
  • May lose the thread of a conversation
  • Passive reading results in poor reading comprehension and slow reading rate 
  • May appear clumsy
  • May lose place in a mathematical or multi-stepped operation
Hyperactive Type: 
  • May continue to be distractible, finding staying on task for more than a few minutes tricky 
  • May be fidgety and on the go 
  • Interrupts conversations 
  • Calls out in class
  • May fiddle constantly 
  • May be highly excitable 
  • May be impulsive, doing things or saying things without thinking through first 
  • May work too quickly making silly mistakes 
  • May read too quickly, but miss the detail
  • Careless errors in exams due to reading too quickly
  • Loses interest quickly 
  • May become aggressive easily and over-react to situations
Beyond Secondary: 
  • Poor organisational ability may impact ability to get to work on time and impact type of job young person can take 
  • Distractibility may impact ability to sustain employment, particularly office-based work 
  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties may impact ability to control and regulate behaviour in public 
  • Some individuals may be prone to depression 
  • Difficulties in making and maintaining relationships 
  • Extremes of emotion and erratic emotional responses
  • Difficulties in further study due to difficulties experienced when taking external exams 
  • Ongoing literacy difficulties may impact everyday life 
  • Ongoing numerical difficulties may lead to poor management of finances

Possible Access Arrangements:

Possible Access Arrangements:

·         Extra time for:  processing difficulties, slow reading, slow writing, reading comprehension difficulties

·         Scribe/wordprocessor/voice activated systems for: students with illegible handwriting or spelling due to impulsivity

·         Reader/computer reader for: students with exceptionally slow reading or poor comprehension

·         Prompter for: students with distractibility/poor concentration

·         Rest breaks for: students who experience visual stress, test anxiety, poor concentration

·         Separate invigilation: to aid concentration or to be able to get up and walk around

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