Does My Child Have ADHD, or Just a Lack of Concentration? - Hope 103.2

Does My Child Have ADHD, or Just a Lack of Concentration?

Has your child started kindy, and become more fidgety or badly behaved than before? Don't assume it's ADHD. It might just be a lack of concentration.

By Clare BruceThursday 1 Jun 2017ParentingReading Time: 3 minutes

Listen: Don’t confuse ADHD with a lack of concentration, says Dr Annemarie Christie.

Has your child started kindy, and suddenly become more fidgety, daydreamy, scatterbrained or badly behaved than before?  

If your little one’s prep teacher has called suggesting little Connor, Riley or Tayla might need to be assessed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, don’t despair! They may simply have an everyday, garden-variety, lack of concentration.

Dr Annemarie Christie, director of The Children’s Doctor clinic, has been inundated with parents asking her to assess Little Miss Four and Mister Five, because they’re lacking in concentration at school.

Chatting to Hope 103.2’s Laura Bennett, she said while ADHD is on the rise, parents shouldn’t assume that’s their child’s problem, just because they’re struggling to focus.

In fact, a whopping two out of five kids will struggle to pay attention in their first year of school. It’s a common for children who are growing up. I mean, think about it—they’re learning new routines of getting up early and staying awake all day, they’re figuring out how to socialise, and are still developing basic life skills like waiting in line, sitting still, taking turns and listening. That’s a lot for a kid to take in, when just a few years ago they were still crawling and sucking their thumb.

It’s a smaller percentage who will have ADHD: around 1 in 10 school-aged children. The trick is knowing the difference.

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Symptoms of an ADHD Child

Boy doing homework struggles to concentrate

A true ADHD diagnosis is about more than just being ‘busy’ or distractable. Dr Christie suggests parents should look for the following signs first.


Children with ADHD are not just figdetty; they’re hyperactive to the point where they literally can’t sit still. “They’re wriggling the entire time, they’re never relaxed and calm. It’s like their body is driven and needs to be moving the whole time,” says Dr Christie.


Children with ADHD often do things on impulse, without thinking or knowing why. “They might knock something over and you’ll say, ‘Why did you do that?’ and they look at you blankly, because they really have no idea why.”


Children with ADHD have a tendency to be ‘oppositional’. “They’re very argumentative, they’re difficult to have around the home because they’re not compliant.”

Mood Swings

Children with ADHD tend to lack the ability to regulate their emotions. “They swing high and low. They have massive tantrums and other times will be bouncing off the walls having so much fun.”

An ADHD Diagnosis Requires These 3 Things

For a doctor to give an official ADHD diagnosis, a child needs to meet these criteria: their symptoms must have been present for at least six months, taking place in two or more settings; and their social and academic performance must be affected.

“If it’s only in school that they’re having difficulty, and when they’re at home or sport or with friends there’s no dramas, then we wouldn’t look for a diagnosis,” Dr Christie said.

“Before jumping to conclusions, give them time to learn those grown-up skills like focusing…”

Be patient with your child. Before jumping to conclusions, give them time to learn those grown-up skills like focusing, listening, and concentrating—skills that we adults sometimes struggle with ourselves!

And take steps to help them improve their concentration, like limiting their screen time and making sure they get fresh, healthy food and plenty of sleep. As time passes, you’ll begin to see more clearly whether their behaviours are a result of the normal pressures of growing up, or a troubling pattern.