Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity, being the symptomatology that defines the disorder.

Children with trouble paying attention, they are absent-minded or distracted, it seems that they are not listening, they have difficulty concentrating, they do not follow instructions correctly, they need reminders to do things and they seem to put little effort into schoolwork, having difficulty organizing themselves.

People with symptoms hyperactive They can climb, jump, they move excessively. They find it difficult to engage in activities calmly and seem unable to sit still. They do things in a hurry instead of taking their time, they make careless mistakes, and they don't stop when they are in constant activity (it seems as if they have a motor).Children with symptoms impulsive. They may interrupt, speak hastily, do things without thinking, have difficulty waiting, take turns with other people, or share.They also have emotional outbursts and may lack self-control.At first, parents may not know that these behaviors are part of ADHD. It may seem like the child is just misbehaving. ADHD can cause stress and frustration in parents, who may feel disrespected. They may be embarrassed about what others may think about their child's behavior. They may wonder if they have done something to cause it. But in children with ADHD, the skills that control attention, behavior, and activity do not develop naturally.
When parents learn about ADHD and what approaches work best, they can help their children improve and thrive.

ADHD in a snapshot

El Trastorno por Déficit de Atención e Hiperactividad afecta la atención, autocontrol y niveles de actividad. Puede persistir en la edad adulta.

  • Dificultad para mantener la atención en tareas.
  • Olvidos frecuentes en actividades diarias.
  • Impulsividad.
  • Dificultad para quedarse quieto.
  • Interrumpe o interviene en conversaciones o juegos.
  • Falta de organización en tareas y actividades.
  • Origen multifactorial: genética, factores ambientales y neurobiológicos.
  • Desequilibrios en neurotransmisores.
  • No es causado por una educación "floja" o mucha TV.
  • Afecta aproximadamente al 5% de los niños y al 2.5% de los adultos.
  • No todos los individuos con TDAH son hiperactivos.
  • El TDAH es diagnosticado con más frecuencia en niños que en niñas.
  • Muchos adultos con TDAH están sin diagnosticar.
  • Proporcionar instrucciones claras y concisas.
  • Establecer rutinas consistentes.
  • Uso de recordatorios y herramientas organizativas.
  • Minimizar distracciones en el entorno.
  • Reforzar comportamientos positivos.
  • Ser paciente y comprender que no es "pereza" o "desobediencia".

Entender el TDAH permite ofrecer un mejor apoyo y comprensión a quienes viven con este trastorno. Es importante no hacer suposiciones y brindar el ambiente adecuado para su desarrollo y bienestar.

What are the symptoms of each subtype of ADHD?

The symptoms of ADHD are detailed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), which lists nine symptoms that suggest ADHD: primarily inattention and nine that suggest ADHD: primarily hyperactivity/impulsivity. A child can be diagnosed with ADHD only if he or she has at least six of the nine symptoms from one of the lists below, and if the symptoms have been noted for at least six months in two or more settings, for example, at home and at school. Additionally, the symptoms must interfere with the child's functioning or development, and at least some of the symptoms must have been evident before age 12. Older adolescents and adults may need to consistently demonstrate only five of these symptoms in multiple settings.

The symptoms of ADHD with inattentive presentation are characterized by: 

  • Often does not pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g., overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).
  • Often has difficulty maintaining attention on tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty staying focused during lectures, conversations, or long readings).
  • Often appears not to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind appears to be elsewhere, even in the absence of an obvious distraction).
  • Often does not follow instructions and complete schoolwork, household chores, or workplace duties (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily distracted).
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks, difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order, messy and disorganized work, poor time management, failure to meet deadlines).
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g., school or homework assignments; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing long documents).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, papers, glasses, cell phones).
  • Often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older teens and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).
  • Often forgets about daily activities (e.g., doing homework, running errands; for older teens and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments)
The symptomatology of ADHD with a hyperactive/impulsive presentation is characterized by: 
  • Often fidgets or taps with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations where he or she is expected to remain seated (e.g., leaves his or her place in the classroom, office, or other workplace, or in other situations that require remaining in place) .
  • Often runs or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate. (Note: in teenagers or adults, it may be limited to feeling restless.)
  • Often unable to play or participate in leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often “on the move,” acting as if “driven by a motor” (e.g., cannot sit still or feels uncomfortable for a long time, such as in restaurants, meetings; others may perceive him or her as restless or difficult to keep) up).
  • Often talks in excess.
  • Often blurts out a response before a question has been completed (e.g., completes people's sentences; cannot wait their turn in conversation).
  • Often has difficulty waiting his turn (e.g., while waiting in line).
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., intrudes on conversations, games, or activities; may begin to use other people's things without asking or receiving permission; in adolescents and adults, may intrude or take charge of what others do)

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood, affecting 5% of school-age children. It is a disorder of cross-cultural validity and is universal in all cultures. Regarding gender, ADHD has a higher incidence in males than in females, with a ratio of 3:1 in the pediatric population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 children between the ages of 5 and 17 are diagnosed with ADHD, 7 making ADHD one of the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorders in the US.

ADHD symptoms are often identified at school, as many children with ADHD find the symptoms interfere with their academic performance..

The etiology of ADHD is multicausal. The factors that are involved include genetics, environmental conditions and neurobiological impairment.

Risk factor's

Risk factors for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder may include:

  • Blood relatives, such as parents or siblings, with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or another mental health disorder.
  • Exposure to environmental toxins, such as lead,in patients with genetic vulnerability.
  • Drug use, alcohol consumption or smoking by the mother during pregnancy.
  • Premature birth.

Although sugar consumption is popularly suspected of causing hyperactivity, there is no reliable evidence to confirm this. Many problems in childhood can lead to difficulty maintaining attention, but that is not the same as having attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.


ADHD can make life difficult for children. Children with ADHD have these characteristics:

  • They often struggle in the classroom, which can lead to academic failure and judgment from other children and adults.
  • They tend to have more accidents andthey may not weigh the risks.
  • They tend to have low self-esteem.
  • They are more likely to have problems interacting with and being accepted by peers and adults.
  • They are more likely to engage in risky behavior (increased alcohol and drug consumption, as well as criminal behavior).
Coexisting conditions

ADHD does not cause other psychological or developmental problems. However, children with ADHD are more likely than others to have conditions such as:

  • Oppositional defiant disorder, generally defined as a pattern of negative, defiant, and hostile behavior toward authority figures.
  • conduct disorder, marked by antisocial behavior, such as stealing, fighting, destroying property, and harming people or animals.
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, characterized by irritability and problems tolerating frustration.
  • Learning difficulties, including problems with reading, writing, comprehension and communicationand calculation.
  • Substance abuse disorders, including drugs, alcohol and smoking.
  • Anxiety disorders, which can cause overwhelming worry and nervousness, and include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder, which includes depression and manic behavior.
  • autism spectrum disorder, a condition related to brain development that affects how a person perceives and socializes with others.
  • Nervous tic or Tourette's syndrome, disorders that involve repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that cannot be easily controlled.
How can parents help?

Parenting and homeschooling is as important as any other part of ADHD treatment. The way parents respond can make ADHD better, or worse.

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD:

Get involved. Learn everything you can about ADHD. Follow the treatment recommended by the health professional treating your child. Go with him to all scheduled medical and therapy visits. If your child takes ADHD medication, give it at the times recommended by your doctor. Do not change the dose without consulting your doctor. Keep all medications in a safe place that cannot be accessed by others.

Know how ADHD affects your child.All children are different. Identify the problems your child has due to ADHD. Some children need to improve their ability to pay attention and listen. Others need to learn to calm down. Ask your child's therapist for advice and ways to help your child practice and improve.

Focus on teaching your child one thing at a time. Don't try to work on everything at the same time. Start with small things. Pick one thing and focus on it. Praise your child for his efforts.

Work with your child's school.Meet often with your child's teachers to see how he or she is doing in school. Work with these teachers to help your child do well in school.Methodological adaptations must be applied from school.

Connect with others for support and information. Join an ADHD support organization such as CHADD to receive treatment updates, information, etc.

Find out if you have ADHD. ADHD usually runs in families. Parents (or other relatives) of children with ADHD may not know that they also have it. When parents with ADHD receive a diagnosis and treatment, this process can help them become better parents.

Apply discipline with objectives and with love.Learn which discipline approaches are best for a child with ADHD and which ones can make ADHD worse. Get advice and training from your child's therapist on ways to respond to your child's behavior. Children with ADHD can be very sensitive to criticism. The best way to correct their behavior is to motivate and support them, rather than resorting to punishments.

Set clear expectations.Before going somewhere, talk to your child to explain how you want him or her to behave there. Focus on teaching your child what to do, rather than reacting to what not to do.andpositively reinforce adaptive behaviors.

Talk about it.Don't be afraid or ashamed to talk to your child about ADHD. Help him understand that he is not to blame for having ADHD and that he can learn ways to improve the problems caused by this disorder.

Spend special time together each day.Reserve some time to talk and enjoy relaxing or entertaining activities with your child; even if it's just a few minutes a day. At these moments, dedicate your full attention to your child. Praise him for his positive behaviors. Don't praise him excessively, but comment when he does things well. For example, when your child is waiting for his turn, say, "That's great! You're waiting for your turn!"

The most important thing is your relationship with your child. Children with ADHD often feel like they are letting other people down, that they are doing things wrong, or that they are not being "good." Protect your child's self-esteem by being patient, understanding and tolerant with him. Let your child know that you believe in him and that you see all the good things in him. Build resilience by maintaining a positive, loving relationship with your child.