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What helps kids with ADHD?

Supportive parenting and home environment


As the parent of a child with ADHD, there is a huge amount that you can do to help your child.   In some parts of Glasgow there is an ADHD-specific parent training course (Parents Inc.) run by the NHS which can help parents to understand the things they can do to help their child and improve family life at home.   In other areas there are more general parenting programmes running (like Triple P or the Incredible Years programme). Having support from other parents in a similar situation is also really helpful (such as through this group), and there are many great books out there which can also help.  


Some of the main things which parents can do to help their children are:

  • Set up family routines and rules which are clear and consistent and easy to understand, with lots of praise and rewards for good behaviour, and simple and immediate sanctions for breaches.

  • Set a regular bed time and do what you can to make sure your child gets plenty of sleep, even in the school holidays.  Many kids with ADHD have sleep problems – and lack of sleep can make the symptoms of ADHD worse. Watch our video on sleep here. 

  • Help your child to get plenty of physical exercise each day.

  • Help build your child’s self-esteem whenever you can. There is a great article about this here.  It’s very tempting to shout at children with ADHD and start on the ‘Why can’t you…?’ questions – we’ve all done it – but it doesn’t help!

  • Make sure you keep yourself rested and well – give yourself breaks if you possibly can and recharge your own batteries.


Having a child with ADHD can be really hard work.  There will be tough times and none of us gets things right all the time – just remember you are not alone!

ADHD picture

Where does the information on these pages come from?  


There is lots of information out there on the internet, some great and some less so, and with something like ADHD it’s really important to get the facts.  The information on these pages has mainly come from three reliable sources:

Next - ADHD Myths....  Click to continue  

A supportive school environment


Teachers who understand about ADHD can make an enormous difference to ADHD children they teach and help them to have a really positive experience of school.   It’s easy to assume that teachers should know all about ADHD – but the reality is that some know much more than others.   When a child is first diagnosed, it’s important to let the school know about the diagnosis and encourage them to find out more about the condition.  The CAMHS team or educational psychologist should be able to help.   Some of the most helpful things teachers can do to help children with ADHD children are:

  • Allow children to move around and learn in different ways – sitting still and listening for long periods can be really difficult

  • Break tasks up into small chunks with steps which are easy to achieve

  • Give children regular breaks to go out and run around, or even do a push-up or two.    Some teachers will send a child with ADHD on a special errand when they are finding it difficult to focus, and this kind of thing can be really helpful

  • If children are irritating others by tapping or fiddling, give them something which they can play with – like a piece of putty or bluetac or a squeezy ball.  Wobble cushions really help some kids.  

  • Give clear and direct instructions and face students when talking to them

  • Offer lots of immediate praise for tasks well done

  • Create a working environment where the child won’t have lots of distractions – perhaps an area away from others, or allowing headphones to listen to music which drowns out other noises.  Some kids with ADHD work better with low level background noise than in silence- ask them what works for them.

  • Be realistic about how much homework can be achieved – this can be a real flashpoint between children and parents.  Simple things to help with organisation, like writing down the child’s homework for them in a notebook, can also help.  


Watch a video of our workshop presentation from August 2016 about ADHD and school by clicking here.


Useful websites for teachers include HumansNotRobots which has a great presentation on ADHD Friendly Classrooms, and the ADHD Together website has helpful tips and resources about classroom strategies in ADHD.

You can find out more about your rights as a parent in getting additional help for your child via our Useful Links page.

ADHD Medication


Not all children with ADHD will be prescribed medication, but many research studies have shown that drugs can improve all three core symptoms of ADHD – inattention, overactivity and impulsivity.  


There are two main types of clinically effective drugs for ADHD:

  • Psychostimulants – these work by increasing the availability of certain chemicals in the brain, noradrenaline and dopamine.   They are the most commonly used medications for ADHD.   The ones available on the NHS in Scotland are methylphenidate (brand names Ritalin, Concerta, Medikinet and Equasym) and dexamfetamine (brand name Elvanse).

  • Non-stimulant medications – these work in other ways, for example by preventing noradrenaline by being taken up again by the brain (noradrenergic reuptake inhibitors).   They are generally used in children who can't take or tolerate stimulant medications.   Atomoxetine (brand name Strattera) and guanfacine (brand name Intuniv) are the two non-stimulant medications which are available on the NHS in Scotland.


There is a range of different medications available including short-acting and long-acting ones.  Which one to choose will depend on the specific needs of the young person, and medicines may need to be adjusted as they grow and depending on their experience with them.  


ADHD medications are only prescribed on the recommendation of a child psychiatrist in Glasgow – though repeat prescriptions will come from your GP.   It’s really important to have regular medicines reviews with the child psychiatrist or ADHD nurse specialist during treatment to check for side effects and see how well the medicine is working.   Talk through any worries or concerns you have with them – if one medicine doesn’t work well for your child, there may be other options.


Further information:

  • There is a fuller explanation of ADHD medicines on the Netdoctor website and a good explanation of how they are thought to work on the Understood website (some of the brandnames mentioned here are the American ones).

  • Read the results of our parent survey about ADHD medications in November 2015.

  • The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) – who recommend how NHS care should be delivered in Scotland – have produced a parent leaflet on ADHD medication.

There is lots that can really make a big difference - here are some top tips relating to home, school and medication.