ADHD: What is it and How We Can Support Children with this Diagnosis
Article Written by: Victoria Mannella-Gupta
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a lifelong brain disorder that can make it difficult for an individual to pay attention*.
Causes of ADHD
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, although genetics may play a role. Many children with ADHD have a family history of the disorder*.
Signs of ADHD
A person with ADHD may show some of the following signs*:
Easily distracted by background noise
Inability to understand or remember instructions
Starts thinking about other things
Difficulty staying focused on tasks
Does not seem to listen
Does better on some tasks than others
Has difficulty planning, organizing, and finishing tasks on time
Has difficulty learning new things
Difficulty staying still
Restless and fidgety
May bounce from one activity to the next
Tries to do more than one thing at once
May act before thinking
Difficulty waiting their turn
ADHD and Speech**
Children with ADHD are at risk for articulation disorders, which affect their ability to produce letter sounds appropriate for their age.
They may also show increased volume and variability in pitch when talking, an increased number of vocal pauses, and more repetitions or word fillers as they try to organize their thoughts (i.e. “In the story … um… the story… um… um… the story was … about a…boy who…um… went to a new school!”
They may process language differently as well or speak off-topic.
They may struggle to find the right words and put them together cohesively in a sentence.
Errors in grammar may be present due to planning difficulties.
Listening comprehension can be impaired due to difficulty comprehending quick speech, distractions, or noisy environments. They may have the capacity to understand, but because of ADHD, miss details in both conversation and stories.
Children with ADHD may find it easier to work one-on-one rather than in a group.
ADHD also make it difficult to manage large clumps of conversation all at once. For example, an 8-year-old may be able to handle hearing as many as twelve words at a time with good understanding, but with ADHD, seven or eight might be the maximum. Anything larger, and information begins to be dropped.
Children with ADHD may blurt out answers, interrupt, talk excessively, or speak loudly. They may make tangential comments in conversation, or struggle to organize their thoughts.
Role of the Speech-Language Pathologist*
Watch how your child interacts with other children and teachers
Listen to how your child talks with you and other family members
Talk with you about speech and language development
Talk with your child to see if they know about the difficulties
Test speech and language skills
See how well your child can retell a story or talk about an event
Test your child's social skills
See how well your child can plan, organize, and pay attention to details
Treatment for ADHD*
· Each child with ADHD is different
· Medicine may be prescribed by your child’s doctor, but you will also learn about possible side effects
· An SLP can work with your child on speech, language, and social problems such as planning and organizing to get tasks done, learning to take turns, and paying attention when talking to others.
· The SLP can also work with your child's teacher to find ways to help them in class (i.e. sitting in the front of the class, using checklists or planners to stay organized etc.).
Who can diagnose ADHD?***
According to the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC), an assessment may be done by a child and adolescent psychiatrist, (developmental) paediatrician, psychologist, neurologist or a family doctor who is trained in ADHD. In most cases, more than one professional will be required to complete a thorough assessment.
It is important to note, that sometimes children with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) are misdiagnosed as having ADHD as the symptoms can overlap or vice versa. Sometimes the issue is processing what they hear rather than attention difficulty. However, it is also possible for both disorders to coexist. Please see our blog post, “Learn About Auditory Processing Disorder” for more information about APD.
At Empower Communication Services, we look forward to assessing your child’s communication skills in relation to ADHD, creating individualized treatment plans, and conducting therapy that can be followed through at home and in the classroom.
* American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2021). https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/adhd/
** Bertin, M. (2021). The A.D.D Resource Centre. https://www.addrc.org/effects-adhd-communication/
*** Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (2021). https://caddac.ca/understanding-adhd/in-general/assessment-diagnosis/