What is Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Most common in school aged children, ADD/ADHD affects a child’s ability to pay attention and to concentrate. Typically the disorder is diagnosed by a Psychiatrist and a Clinical Psychologist with boys being four times more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder.

The three main areas of difficulty are;

  •  Poor attention skills (difficulty concentrating or paying attention to a task such as homework, poor listening skills, difficulty planning tasks, organizing tasks and completing tasks on time).

  •  Hyperactivity (seems unable to sit still, always fidgeting, tapping pencils, wiggling feet, appears restless, tries to do more than one thing at a time).

  • Impulsivity (difficulty thinking before acting such as pushing a classmate before thinking).

These core areas of difficulty can have further affects on appropriate speech and language and communication development, particularly in social situations.

A child with ADHD may also have co-occurring learning difficulties which may further impact their speech, language and literacy skills (reading and writing).

Speech and language Symptoms

Speech and Language Therapists work on the following symptoms of ADHD.

Understanding language

Children with ADHD find it more challenging to take in language and understand what is said to them. They may:

  • Have poor listening skills

  • Difficulty with the understanding of words and sentences

  • Struggle to follow verbal directions

  • Difficulty taking in spoken information (may not take in information as accurately or quickly as classmates)

  • Difficulty understanding written text such as following a storyline.


The child with ADHD may have trouble getting out what they want to say, rush what they say or talk in muddled up and unclear sentences.

A toddler with ADHD may be noticed with a delay in basic language skills such as developing age appropriate vocabulary (words), grammar or putting words into sentences.

In school the child may:

  • Have difficulty thinking of and saying the desired word out loud (word finding difficulties)

  • Difficulty answering questions using necessary key words

  • Difficulty expressing themselves using words and sentences

  • Difficulty planning and organizing their thoughts into well formed sentences


 Social skills (pragmatic skills)

Social skills are the skills needed to get on well in conversations with others. As children with ADHD have difficulty understanding and applying the rules of conversation they may :

  • Have difficulty maintaining appropriate eye contact

  • Not pay attention to the person with which they are in conversation

  • Trouble in taking turns in conversation with the other speaker(s)

  • Difficulty knowing when they have talked too much (dominating the conversation)

  • Ask inappropriate questions

  • Difficulty in keeping a conversation topic going.

  • May interrupt conversation when it is not appropriate (e.g. when adults are in conversation)

How Speech and Language Therapy can help:

Not all children but many of those with ADHD will experience language and communication difficulties. Speech and Language Therapists will undertake a detailed evaluation of your child’s speech, language and communication skills and provide an individualized treatment plan tailored to your child’s specific needs.  They may then work on your child’s understanding of words and sentences, how your child uses language in everyday conversations, developing appropriate social skills such as not interrupting, keeping on topic, taking turns in conversation and behavioural strategies.

Speech and Language Therapists may also liaise with your child’s teacher providing strategies such as visual schedules or checklists to address your child’s organization and planning skills. We will also provide teachers with advice and strategies to support language skills and social skills at school.


We can also work with older children who are struggling to keep up with their studies. To make daily routines easier we can help your child help themselves by providing strategies and tips for concentration and organization management to help them during school, study and in day to day living.

Daily supports

Children with ADHD often benefit from visual structure that supports organization of material.

Routines are important.  When activities are consistent, children do not need to use the same level of cognitive resources to get through activities as they do when routines are new.

Clocks and timers with visual and auditory features are useful tools in intervention.

Creating and following simple schedules can often be used to help children with ADD/ADHD anticipate what is coming next.

Set clear expectations and rules.  Help children organize information visually as they listen.  This will then become a process that is automated, allowing them to listen and retain information better.



  • Smart but Scattered  by Peg Dawson

  • Coaching Students with Executive Skills Deficits

  • Lost at School  by Ross Greene

  • Zones of Regulation by Leah Kuypers

  • ADHD and the nature of self-control by R.A. Barkley



Barkley, R.A. (1997). ADHD and the nature of self-control. New York: Guilford Press.

Kuypers, L. (2011).  Zones of Regulation.  San Jose:  Social Thinking.

Teeter, P. A. (1998). Interventions for ADHD: Treatment in developmental context. New York: Guilford Press.

Goldstein, S., & Goldstein, M. (1990). Managing attention disorders in children. New York: Wiley.

National Institute of Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health.
NIH Publication No. 08-3572. Revised 2008.  Retrieved from: ADHD:  What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?