Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) | NAMI

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is one of the conditions most strongly linked to genetics. People with ADHD do not lack intelligence or discipline. They are just challenged at focusing to complete tasks. Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or [email protected] if you have any questions about anxiety disorders or need to find support and resources.


Helping Yourself


Many of the strategies that help youth with ADHD, including structure, organizational tips and coaching as well as medication can be helpful for adults living with ADHD as well. An individualized approach to treatment that focuses on strengths and circumstances is critical for adult and children.

One of the major areas of focus for adults living with ADHD is learning to manage the disorder in the workplace. Symptoms can cause difficulties in some or all the following areas:


  • Organizing paperwork, prioritizing tasks and estimating the amount of time it takes to get started on and complete projects on time
  • Focusing, sustaining and shifting attention from one project to another
  • Staying alert, sustaining effort and processing information in a reasonable amount of time
  • Remembering facts while actively processing other information
  • Regulating impulsivity and picking up on the nonverbal cues from others


There are a lot of things you can do to keep yourself organized and work with a low level of stress. Know your rights and work with your employer to make your environment suitable for your needs. Some common accommodations include:


  • Scheduling regular meetings with supervisor to prioritize tasks
  • Developing a checklist of assignments, and a workflow chart that provides an idea of time required for each project
  • Using an electronic filing system
  • Extending deadlines on projects and tasks
  • Providing a distraction-free workspace
  • Breaking up big assignments into smaller tasks
  • Providing structured breaks
  • Integrating interesting projects with more mundane tasks
  • Allowing the employee to audio record instructions and meetings, and/or providing written instructions on projects and training
  • Allowing the employee to work from home
  • Engaging the help of a job coach
  • Allowing the employee to skip social events
  • Assigning a mentor to assist the employee


You will want to talk with your supervisor and ensure that these accommodations will not cause an burden on your place of employment. You can find more information about accommodations by visiting the Job Accommodation Network website.


ADHD Coaching


Coaching has emerged as a new industry over the last half century to enhance the personal and professional development. ADHD Coaching has developed over the last few decades as a component to the treatment of ADHD. It is a support that is well-suited to the needs of people living with ADHD, including adults and youth. In general, ADHD coaching:


  • Enhances understanding of ADHD’s impacts on a client’s life
  • Provides a framework that includes self-acceptance
  • Provides a laboratory for effective, experiential learning
  • Works with a client to identify areas of strength
  • Identifies avenues for managing challenge areas
  • Develops personalized strategies for success


ADHD coaches often work with you on scheduling, goal setting, confidence building, organizing, focusing, prioritizing and persisting at tasks. ADHD coaching is an effective way to create lasting change. A coaching relationship provides the structure to focus on what’s important, find the clarity people need to make decisions, determine the actions they want to take—and then hold them accountable.


Coaches can also help parents of children living with ADHD. For parents, coaching offers a way to:


  • Help kids determine their strengths and motivations
  • Expose kids to the benefits of celebrating successes
  • Teach kids to shift perspectives and get “unstuck”
  • Pass on life lessons, both positive and negative
  • Support kids in figuring out what they want in their lives
  • Provide constructive feedback and accountability
  • Share their values, beliefs and perspectives


To learn more and find ADHD coaches, visit the EdgeFoundation (for ADHD students), Impact ADHD (for parents), the Institute for the Advancement of ADHD Coaching (IAAC) and the International Coach Federation.


If you live with a mental health condition, learn more about managing your mental health and finding the support you need.


Helping A Family Member Or Friend


ADHD is one of the most common conditions in children, so first you should know that you and your child are not alone.


ADHD is not a byproduct of parenting style. Also, children living with ADHD do not lack intelligence or discipline—they are just challenged by sustaining the focus needed to complete tasks appropriate for their age.


To provide support for your child at home there are many things you can do:


Maintain a positive attitude. Focus on successes and victories and less on the challenges or obstacles of the condition. Always have his strengths, goals and interests help drive the services and supports he receives to manage the symptoms of ADHD. For example, if your child is always moving, consider engaging him in physical activities like yoga, dance class, running, martial arts or similar activities in which the symptoms of ADHD may actually help him excel. It is helpful to create experiences that build on strengths and bolster self-esteem. Your positive attitude is the best tool in helping your child overcome the challenges of ADHD.


Create and maintain structure. Children living with ADHD are more likely to succeed when they have a regular schedule of tasks each day. They can experience serious problems if their daily structure changes, or they are forced to make a big change. Create and sustain a supportive structure so that your child knows what to expect every day.


Communicate rules and expectations. Children living with ADHD do well with clear and simple rules and expectations that they can easily understand and follow. Write down any rules and expectations and post them in a place where your child can easily read them. You may also want to create a chores chart for her to look at every day. She may also respond well to an organized system of rewards and consequences—consistency is key. Explain the consequences when rules are broken and to praise her when they are obeyed. Rewards should be immediate experiences and activities with a parent to encourage bonding and connection rather than tangible rewards or treats. Consequences should not punish the child but the behavior (e.g., time out from any reinforcing activities).


Encourage movement and sleep. Children who live with ADHD have energy to burn. Organized sports and other physical activities can help them increase their self-esteem and unleash their energy in healthy and productive ways with other children in their age group. Children living with ADHD who exercise often tend to sleep better, which can greatly reduce ADHD symptoms. Have a nighttime routine that encourages a healthy sleep cycle—this may include reading, avoiding electronics and encouraging self-soothing activities before bed. Martial arts can be a helpful strategy as they emphasize self-control and increase confidence.


Focus on social skills. Children living with ADHD often have difficulty with peer relationships and making friends. They may have trouble with reading social cues, talking too much, interrupting frequently or coming off as inappropriately aggressive. Their emotional immaturity may cause them to stand out among other kids in their age group, contributing to low self-esteem. Model social skills, hire a life coach or work with your child’s therapist to address this issue. Being connected to family and friends is an important part of living well with ADHD.


Students living with ADHD may experience unique challenges in the classroom. The common symptoms of ADHD—inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity—can cause disruptions to a child’s learning, peer relationships, functional performance and behavior within the school setting. ADHD may manifest itself differently in the classroom than what you see at home. Girls living with ADHD are at times overlooked as their presentation often involves less behavioral disruption than boys.


Your child’s school will likely offer programs and special educational services if you feel that he may need them. The school can conduct an evaluation to see if he qualifies. You should speak with your child’s teacher and other counselors about these opportunities.


The following is a list of typical accommodations that a student living with ADHD may receive from their school:


  • Modified homework assignments, testing and deadlines
  • Use of helpful tools (calculator, tape recorder, computer and electric spell-checker)
  • A behavioral plan or social skills training
  • Continual progress reports assessing behavior and assignments
  • Peer, volunteer tutors or working one-on-one with the teacher
  • Sitting the student near the teacher and away from doors and windows
  • Increased parent and teacher collaboration
  • Providing the student with a note-taking partner
  • Letting the student run occasional errands for the teacher to burn off some energy


The following is a list of more intensive services and supports that may be provided for students living with ADHD:


  • Supplementary aids and services
  • School-based counseling
  • Family counseling and training
  • Resource room services (small group work)
  • Test modifications, such as small group testing in a separate location
  • One-on-one service providers, such as crisis management services, transportation services and more
  • Collaborative team teaching​

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).