ADHD and Speech Development

Does your child find it hard to focus, and do they get easily distracted? Do they exhibit unruly behavior and fidget non-stop? If they do, then they might have ADHD.

Don’t panic! ADHD is a fairly common problem, and there is plenty of help for you out there – including Speech Blubs and this article. 

What is ADHD?

Known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD is a common condition that is a disorder of arousal, which means that the areas of your child’s brain that is responsible for attention and executive functioning are disrupted – leading to inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Approximately 10% of school-age children worldwide have ADHD, and it affects twice as many boys as girls. The disorder can run in families and is NOT a result of poor parenting. It’s a valid neurobiological condition that often exists in conjunction with other disorders such as:

  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Recurring negativistic, defiant, hostile, and disobedient behavior
  • Conduct Disorder (CD)/Aggression: Repeated violation of basic rights of others or age-appropriate societal norms, repeated aggression, lying, stealing, and truancy
  • Learning Disabilities (LDs): Impaired sensory-motor coordination, poor handwriting, and short-term memory problems
  • Depression: Irritability, trouble sleeping, consistent negative mood, and inability to enjoy previously pleasurable experiences
  • Tourette’s Syndrome: Frequent multiple tics
  • Anxiety: Low self-esteem, constant worry, and phobias
  • Developmental Coordination Disorder: Clumsiness, poor performance in sports, and marked delays in achieving motor milestones

Symptoms of ADHD

What are signs of ADHD

ADHD symptoms vary as your child develops, though there are three core symptoms of ADHD:

1. Inattention

  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Doesn’t pay attention to detail
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Doesn’t seem to follow instructions
  • Fails to finish schoolwork and chores
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities

2. Hyperactivity

  • Fidgets with hands and feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves their seat while in the classroom
  • Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations
  • Has difficulty playing quietly
  • Is often “on the go” or acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talks excessively

3. Impulsivity

  • Blurts out answers before questions are completed
  • Has difficulty waiting their turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others

ADHD’s Effect on Speech Development

Language development for children with ADHD

Studies show that children with ADHD are at risk for communication problems, and it can be very frustrating for you and your family when there is a continuous communication breakdown.

If your child is constantly distracted, hyperactive, and impulsive, then it makes sense that they are not going to engage with you and the world around them in the ways that they should. This has a detrimental effect on speech and language development which often causes them to experience speech and language delays/difficulties in any (or all) areas of language. Here’s a table to help break it down for you:

Developmental AreaListeningSpeakingReadingWriting
Phonology (speech sounds)Identifies and distinguishes between the different sounds of speech when listening to someone speakAppropriately uses speech sounds and patterns when speakingUnderstands the associations between letters and sounds when readingAccurately uses the associations between letters and sounds to spell words correctly when writing
Morphology (word structure)Understands how words are built and put together when listening to someone speakBuilds words and correctly puts them together when speakingUnderstands grammar and the order of language when readingUses grammar and word order correctly when writing
Syntax (sentence structure)Understands how sentences are built and put together when listening to someone speakBuilds sentences and correctly puts them together when speakingUnderstands sentences and how they are structured when readingUses sentences correctly and understands how to structure them when writing
Semantics (word meaning)Understands vocabulary and the meaning of words when listening to someone speakUses diverse vocabulary and meaning when speakingUnderstands vocabulary and the meaning of words when readingUses diverse vocabulary and meaning when writing
Pragmatics (language use)Understands the social aspects of spoken language during conversational exchangesUses spoken language socially by producing cohesive and relevant messages during conversationsUnderstands the character’s point of view and responds accordinglyEffectively conveys a point of view and the intended message

As mentioned earlier, children with ADHD have difficulty with executive functioning, which means that they have difficulty sorting and organizing the information they perceive in their everyday lives – such as their thoughts when holding a conversation. Here are some common communication difficulties in children with ADHD experience:

  • Talking too much and not letting others participate in the conversation
  • Talking too loudly, especially when excited or passionate about the topic of discussion
  • Being forgetful when speaking which makes them struggle to remember what someone else said and what they were going to say in response
  • Interrupting others for fear of forgetting what they want to say and being impatient
  • Going off-topic when forgetfulness and distractedness set in
  • Getting distracted and zoning out by not listening
  • Difficulty listening in groups because of all the commotion that comes with being around groups of people
  • Struggles to hold a long conversation due to processing difficulties and how tired it makes them

Here’s How You Can Help Your Child with ADHD

How to help your child with ADHD

The best thing you can do to help your child if you suspect they have ADHD is to ensure that they get the correct diagnosis. There’s no single test that can diagnose ADHD, and it can be a tricky process. A diagnosis requires that there should be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, and/or occupational functioning. 

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, then you need to be on the lookout for potential speech and language issues and address them sooner rather than later. You can also adapt your communication style to help encourage your child to communicate and to make the process easier for them.

To assist both your child with ADHD and your family, your doctor may prescribe your child with medication to help them fulfill a successful and active day. This medication is often prescribed as part of a treatment plan to address your child’s psychological, behavioral, and educational needs, and a team approach is generally required so that your child receives all the support that they need.

Communication Strategies

  • Recognize when your child is hearing you and actively paying attention
  • Give them immediate positive feedback when they are being good and are communicating well
  • Give them short, simple directions
  • Provide communication rules that are clear and brief
  • Create communication strategies that work for both of you
  • Give them choices
  • Use visual aids
  • Talk softly and stay calm
  • Explain your expectations
  • Use short lists of tasks to help them remember things
  • Build on the things your child is good at
  • Make sure your directions are understood

Other Survival Tips for Parents of Kids with ADHD

  • Make a schedule and set up a routine
  • Make simple house rules
  • Reward good behavior
  • Always supervise your child, especially around friends
  • Set a homework routine
  • Focus on effort, not grades
  • Talk with your child’s teachers
  • Keep yourself positive and healthy
  • Keep things in perspective
  • Be willing to make some compromises
  • Believe in your child
  • Give your child realistic chores
  • Make sure your child knows that you love and support them unconditionally
  • Take care of yourself and seek support if necessary. 

In addition to these tips, you can download our Speechblubs app and work on some of our fantastic communication-centered activities.

“My two year old had it for less than a week and he’s already saying more”

Mariah C., Mom

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