What are typical levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity?
Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are common when we are children younger than 6 years of age. As we get older, the demands placed on us gradually increase and if we remain inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive, we will likely have trouble keeping up in school and during activities. Even when we mature behind our peers, we usually catch up and issues with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity do not persist into young adulthood.
Besides normal development and maturation, there are some circumstances we go through where we may experience inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity:
- When we are not getting enough sleep or rest.
- When we are not eating right.
- When we are feeling anxious or stressed.
- When we are feeling sad or low.
- When we are too distracted by the use of technology and electronics.
When should I pay special attention to inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity?
We should be concerned about inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity when they are resulting in problems at home, with our peers, or in the classroom. Some common issues related to inattention to look out for are:
- Making too many careless errors in schoolwork.
- Being easily distracted.
- Presenting difficulty listening when spoken to.
- Presenting difficulty following instructions.
- Having an excessive hard time with long, sustained tasks.
- Being forgetful most of the time and of simple things.
- Losing things regularly.
Some common issues related to hyperactivity are:
- Having trouble staying in one place for long.
- Excessive moving around.
- Trouble staying in silence.
Some common issues related to impulsivity are:
- Being impatient.
- Having trouble waiting for a turn.
- Interrupting others.
- Blurting things out.
Some of us may have issues with only a few of these things, while others with more. In general, when we experience issues related to inattention we are likely to also experience issues with hyperactivity and impulsivity, which can make it very difficult for us to function in school, and in other activities.
What can I do if I struggle with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity?
It can be hard and frustrating to deal with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. If you understand that you struggle with them, there are a few things you may try:
- Ask a trusted adult for help. Trusted adults are usually our caregivers, other family members, or someone else who is responsible for taking care of us. Let your trusted adults know about your difficulties. They can be helpful for assisting you and helping you get any additional help you may need.
- Talk to your teacher. Reaching out to your teacher can be helpful, too. Teachers usually can tell if we are having any difficulties that may be affecting us at school. Talking to them not only helps you understand your difficulty, but it can also inform them on things that can be done in the classroom or at school to help you with your difficulties.
- Spend some time on organization and planning. Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are usually linked with other difficulties, such as remembering activities or tasks. So, try taking some time to plan the things you have to do on each one of your days. Wall calendars, planners, mobile apps, and alarm clocks can be helpful.
- Engage in activities that you feel you are good at. The consequences of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can progressively undermine our sense of competence. Engaging in activities, such as music, joining a sports team, or anything you feel good about, helps to build and strengthen confidence. Also, engaging in activities where you can spend some energy, such as sports, can be helpful.
- Break assignments and tasks down into smaller parts. Breaking bigger tasks or goals into smaller ones, allows us to focus more closely on the specific tasks and makes the assignment less overwhelming.
- Give yourself enough time to do your tasks and take frequent breaks. Tasks requiring more effort can take a little longer for people with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Be realistic about the fact that you might need more time. Also, every time you plan on doing an activity that will take up some effort, take frequent small breaks to give your mind a fresh start.
- Remove distractions. Anyone can easily become distracted when there is something more interesting happening. Removing distractions, such as TVs and mobile phones, can be helpful to allow you to give full attention to the task that is requiring a lot of mental energy.
- Create a system of reward. Keeping motivated to engage and accomplish tasks is important. Every time you complete a given task, give yourself a small reward.
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems you are facing persist, it may be time to ask a trusted adult to seek out professional support.
Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those experienced by others the same age, and that negatively interfere with our daily lives, may indicate the possibility of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
What kind of professional support can be sought out?
It is not unusual for us to feel embarrassed, inadequate or guilty if we experience difficulties with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. But, if you think you are facing this difficulty, support and guidance are available now.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.