Special Needs

Attention Difficulties

The key characteristics of attention difficulties and/or hyperactive behaviour - e.g., attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are those such as: poor attention control, impulsiveness, becoming easily distracted and a high activity level.


A child should be referred for assessment if: 

  • his/her patterns of attention/and or hyperactive difficulties interfere with functioning or development

  • they demonstrate symptoms in more that one setting

  • symptoms negatively impact social, academic, or work functioning in a direct way


Note: some symptoms must present before age 12.  

Attention difficulties and/or hyperactive behaviours can be seen at times in all typically developing
children so it is important to consider the following prior to making a referral for assessment:


  • Child’s developmental age  - e.g. children under the age of 18 months are generally not formally assessed for attention difficulty and/or hyperactive behaviour; attention span and self-regulation naturally varies in early childhood years

  • Situational factors such as stress, time of day, boredom, sleep and diet

  • Environmental factors such as family disruption, life changes and cultural influences

If the child consistently presents any of the following behaviours, consider this a red flag:


Ages 18 months to 5 years
 Unable to concentrate or pay attention for periods of time
 Restless or unable to sit still
 Poorly co-ordinated or clumsy
 Shifts quickly from one activity to another

 Wanders away

Ages 4 to 6 six years
 Easily distracted e.g. has difficulty paying attention or listening to the speaker, easily sidetracked
 Excessive levels of activity i.e. hyperactive e.g. has difficulty sitting still, fidgets often regardless of activity
 Impulsive e.g. runs into traffic, takes risky actions without thinking, has difficulty taking turns, interrupts/blurts things when asked not to, talks excessively
 Disorganized e.g. has problems organizing personal belongings, loses things often, has difficulty following schedule or difficulty remembering routines/explanations



Having concerns about a child's development?

Having difficulty coping? Need some advice?

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