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How to identify, motivate and support a child with ADHD

Article Title

Interview with the Dyslexia Association of Singapore

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

From 24 - 25 June, Supreme Parents attended the UNITE SpLD (Uniting Ideas in Teaching Excellence: Specific Learning Differences) Conference 2020, organised by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS).

The sixth edition of the conference was held online for the first time to enable educators and parents from around the world to gain insights into leading-edge research findings, new practical solutions and opportunities to interact with international experts in special educational needs.

One of the keynote presentations focused on the topic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Supreme Parents invited Ms Hani Zohra Muhamad, Educational Advisor and Lead Educational Therapist at the DAS, to share some tips on how to identify, motivate and support a child with ADHD:

1. What are some common symptoms that help to identify that a child has ADHD?

ADHD is diagnostically separated into three subtypes – Inattention, Hyperactivity/Impulsivity and Combined (according to DSM-5 definition).

We have to be mindful to not assume that a child has ADHD based on certain symptoms. It is recommended for a formal evaluation or a diagnosis from professionals such as psychologists or psychiatrists to be carried out.

These are some common traits of ADHD:

Inattention Hyperactivity Impulsivity
  • Easily distracted
  • Failure to pay close attention to details
  • Has difficulty concentrating on tasks and activities
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Does not follow through instructions
  • Avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Has difficulty organising task, messy, disorganised and/or has poor time management
  • Often loses things and/or is forgetful
  • Frequently fidgets and/or unable to be still for an extended period of time
  • Often feels restless and moves about in inappropriate situations
  • Often squirms and/or leaves seat in class
  • Often runs about or climbs excessively
  • Always ‘on the go’
  • Often talks excessively
  • Cannot play or work quietly
  • Has difficulty waiting for his or her turn
  • Often blurts out answers
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others



2. How can I tell if my child has a poor learning attitude or is unable to focus due to ADHD?

The causes for poor learning attitude can be external or internal. External factors include school environment, social interaction, teachers and teaching techniques; while internal factors include problems at home or the child’s emotional state and maturity.

It is advisable for parents to talk to the child to uncover feelings about school and learning. If it points towards a difficulty in learning, parents are advised to get the child assessed by a psychologist to determine the presence of learning differences.


3. How can I tell if my child has other learning differences besides ADHD?

It is common for students with ADHD to also have other learning differences such as dyslexia.

Parents should observe the way a child approaches school work and learning. Ask and talk to the child about it. Some children would be able to articulate what they find difficult about school work and learning while some may not.

If the parent’s own observations of the child are consistent with feedback from the school, it is advisable to seek help from educational professionals.

4. How does the way I communicate with my child affect the way my child responds?

Children of different age groups respond differently to different ways of communications. By talking to parents of my students, I have observed that teenagers prefer adults to treat them like friends. So I would play the role of a mentor, sharing my experiences with them and advising them, but allowing them to make their own decisions.

On the other hand, my approach with younger students is different and varies from one student to another. For some, being firm helps in getting my point across while for others, providing tender loving care works in getting them to listen to me. Knowing the personalities of my students is important and allows me to approach them in a way that would make them open up to me.


 5. How can parents better support and motivate their child with ADHD?

It is important to recognise that having ADHD does not make the child different from other children in a bad way. They just need to be managed differently. Learning strategies that may work for their siblings and peers may not work for children with ADHD. It is necessary and important for parents to spend time to get to know their learning difficulties in order to provide the appropriate support and motivation.

6. Can you share some likely scenarios that might take place while teaching a child with ADHD and how to problem-solve around it?

A possible scenario is conducting quizzes as part of a lesson. While other students would follow instructions to take turns to give their answers, a student with ADHD tends to answer the questions even though it is not his or her turn yet. Another scenario is reading of a comprehension passage in class. It is common for students with ADHD to fidget in their seats and walk around the classroom

From my experience, students with ADHD react differently to different strategies. But here are some possible ways for parents to better manage their children:

  • Provide clear and concise rules to set expectations right
  • Have a structure in place to allow for moving and fidgeting at specific moments
  • Be flexible with certain rules to ensure some level of cooperation from the child
  • Know the child’s interests and include it in tasks to create interest to undertake them
  • Use a point-reward system to provide the child with immediate feedback and create appreciation

7. How should a parent help a child with ADHD work with his or her emotions?

Understanding the causes behind a child’s feelings is important. For example, parents should go beyond knowing that their child is unhappy about school to identify the specific causes of unhappiness

For instance, the child may not enjoy Maths and Science due to lack of confidence in these subjects. Thus, attending these lessons might lead to feelings of inadequacy or fear of failure to undertake the tasks. Once this is established, talking to the child about the significance of learning these subjects and providing relevant help might ease anxieties. Working together with the teachers of these subjects will also be helpful. For example, parents and teachers could discuss about the right amount of tasks to be given to the child to build confidence.


8. When should a parent seek external help?

When a parent’s observation of a child’s learning difficulty is consistent with feedback from school teachers, seeking external help would provide clarity on the situation.
After a child has met with a psychologist for assessment of learning differences, parents might feel a sense of relief and gain a greater understanding on what they can do to support their child moving forward. 

9. When should a child with ADHD take medication?

As the type and dosage of medication vary for children with ADHD, parents should seek advice from a paediatrician about medication and if it is necessary to be taken.

10. Are there any useful resources that you would recommend to parents?

It is useful to talk to other parents of children with ADHD and exchange experiences, tips and tricks with each other.
Here are some useful websites:






All photos are from the Dyslexia Association of Singapore