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ADHD and Children: A Different Perspective

ADHD can show up in many different ways and often, in ways you may not expect. A common belief about ADHD is that it involves hyperactivity, a lack of concentration, and difficulties meeting expectations behaviorally and academically within a school setting. But WAIT! It is SO much more than that. For example, girls are often underdiagnosed due to these stereotypical views of ADHD. ADHD can definitely make it difficult to sit still in school or concentrate on the task at hand. However, this is just one way in which the attention deficit part or hyperactive part of ADHD can present itself.

Before we get into the various ways attention deficit (perhaps even more accurately, difficulty with regulating attention versus a deficit), and hyperactivity can manifest in day to day life, let’s first go over the different types of ADHD: There is inattentive, hyperactive, and combined type ADHD diagnoses.

Executive functioning is essentially our frontal lobe area of the brain that helps us plan things out, manage time, assess the past and start and finish tasks. When it comes to day to day life with ADHD, executive function tasks like these can be difficult but they aren’t always talked about as much. For instance, task-completion can be difficult when you have ADHD and not just when it is school-related tasks like getting out of bed and completing the mundane morning routine tasks like brushing one’s teeth and getting dressed for the day. It’s not just laziness or not caring if they are going to be late for something. It can be hard to decide what order to do things in and where to start.

Examples of how ADHD might show up:

- Time-blindness

  • Remembering how long something takes, how long ago something happened, or seeing time as either now or not now

- Hyper-focusing

  • the opposite of distractibility and can appear as being super productive

  • is related to the struggle of being able to regulate attention

  • focusing on one thing for too long and letting other important tasks go to the “back burner” (a child may withhold from going to the bathroom for a period while hyper-focusing on a specific task)

- Memory issues

  • They may forget what they went to their room for or what you told them to do 5 minutes ago but can remember specific details about a family trip years ago.

- If something Is out of sight it can be hard to remember where that item is (object permanence)

- Difficulty regulating emotions

- Being able to calm oneself down

- Emotions can feel painfully overwhelming

- Low frustration tolerance

- Trouble shifting focus when someone changes the topic as they can still be thinking about the previous topic

- Exhaustion after completing routine tasks like going to school all-day

A Few Tips to Help Support your Child with ADHD with Executive Functioning

  • Move or switch up the reminder/to-do list/calendars (or any other organizational method you have tried using) to different spots periodically. For example, a note on the fridge reminding your child to grab their lunch overtime just becomes part of the fridge.

  • Have tasks prioritized

  • Keep instructions clear and broken down into steps (aim for no more than 3 steps per task)

  • Start the task with them and then let them finish

  • Putting away items where they belong: try to adjust the process to make it have the least amount of steps possible (take the lid of the toy bin ( it's easier to shove the toy by the toy bin than having to take the lid off and then to place the toy inside)

A few of the many ADHD strengths:

Children with ADHD exhibit various strengths in comparison to those without ADHD.

  • Imaginative

  • Creative

  • Have an awesome sense of humour

  • Have a great sense of fairness

  • Empathetic

  • Exhibit strong leadership skills

  • Passionate

Overall, the planning, organization, and remembering often ends up being facilitated by the parents for their child with ADHD without much notice over time. As your child gets older and gets ready to be independent away from the family home, it can be extremely helpful to discuss how ADHD may become more apparent due to the increasing tasks associated with adulthood ( getting to work on time, paying bills, keeping a living space clean, laundry…). It can be extremely helpful to know that struggling with tasks like these can be due to ADHD and not due to character flaws to foster positive mental health.


McAtee Psychology is a private family psychology practice offering counselling, assessment, and therapeutic services to families. Our services include counselling and assessment for families, children & teens, and couple. Our mission is to help you and your family create a more rich, connected, and meaningful life.

McAtee Psychology NW: 1982 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, AB

McAtee Psychology SE: 105, 11500 29 St SE, Calgary, AB |

Phone: 403-926-3738

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