ADHD Guide

Understanding ADHD at any age — at home, at school and in life.


Cindy Lopez

Director, CHC Community Connections


Melina Foden, PsyD

Licensed Clinical Psychologist
CHC’s Catherine T. Harvey Center for Clinical Services

A View of ADHD over the Lifespan

Although you don’t ‘grow out’ of ADHD, it may look different across the lifespan of an individual. You may see the characteristics listed below at various stages throughout one’s life. Note that these characteristics can also be seen as fundamental strengths. That is part of the journey of a person with ADHD — to recognize and understand both their strengths and challenges. These characteristics are meant to help you understand ADHD over time, they are not meant to be a diagnostic tool.

Young Child

ADHD in a young child can be characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity as well as being adventurous and innovative.

  • Behavioral challenges, also adventurous
  • Difficulty with transitions, also spontaneous
  • High energy, lots of movement
  • Distractible, also persistent
  • Creative and artistic
  • Inventive and innovative
  • Sense of humor

School Age Child

As academic demands increase, ADHD in a school age child may continue to be characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity as well as by charisma.

  • High energy, lots of movement
  • Academic frustration, also an innovative thinker
  • Low self esteem, also charismatic
  • Social challenges, also has a sense of humor
  • Disorganized, also inventive
  • Persistent, also disorganized 
  • Creative and artistic
  • Adventurous, also impulsive


Adolescents with ADHD tend to demonstrate decreased signs of hyperactivity along with beginning to see and understand their strengths.

  • Impulsive, also innovative
  • Adventurous, also prone to risky behavior
  • Inattentive — leading to increased academic challenges
  • Disorganized, also inventive
  • Prone to anxiety/depression, also expressive
  • Restless, also energetic
  • Persistent, also impatient
  • Creative and artistic
  • Spontaneous with sense of humor


ADHD in adults may be characterized by inattention and lack of focus, while at the same time finding their niche through their strengths.

  • Impulsive, also adventurous
  • Restless, also innovative
  • Social exchange is difficult
  • Disorganized, also persistent
  • Creative and inventive
  • Charismatic, also spontaneous
  • Occupational challenges
  • Energetic and artistic
  • Sense of humor

Your Questions Answered

Top questions answered by CHC experts.

How do I get Diagnosed with ADHD? How DO I GET TREATMENT?

Question By: Ryen

Age: 38

If you think you might have ADHD as an adult, here’s what you can do:

– Recognize the symptoms
– Talk to a professional
– Get an Evaluation to obtain a diagnosis and rule out other conditions
– Learn about treatment options

See I’m an Adult—How Do I Get Diagnosed With ADHD? to learn more about the steps toward getting a diagnosis and ADHD treatment options.

Does ADHD ever go away?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning that there are differences in the ADHD brain and development and function of the nervous system. The exact cause of ADHD is still unknown, although research shows that ADHD has strong heritability and is correlated to factors such as very low birth weight and exposure to environmental toxins in-utero. ADHD lasts throughout one’s life. Although there is no cure, there are ways to manage symptoms if they interfere in one’s day to day life, while centering an individual’s many strengths.

Is Executive Functioning disorder related to ADHD?

Executive functioning is a cognitive process in the brain. People with ADHD generally have difficulty with executive functions — although not always. Very simply, executive function includes the ability to organize and  manage ourselves, our time, and our emotions. We see that people with ADHD often have difficulty with tasks associated with executive functioning including paying attention, organizing, regulating emotions, and self monitoring. Although executive function challenges affect people with ADHD, it can also impact others without ADHD.

Is ADHD hereditary?

ADHD does tend to run in families given that available evidence suggests that ADHD is genetic. Many parents of children with ADHD have ADHD themselves, and it is commonly found in siblings.

Got a question for our experts?

Ask about ADHD and get advice from a CHC expert. If your question is chosen for display in the CHC Resource Library, you will be notified via email.

Tools, Tips & Takeaways





CHC Voices of Compassion Podcast

Our weekly CHC podcast with expert insights, inspiration and creative conversations about mental health, education and family.

A Parent’s Journey: A Child with ADHD


with Lauren Barry Sims

In this episode, we talk candidly about what parenting a child with ADHD is really like — the challenges, joys, worries and wonder. How do you know when it’s time to get help? Is medication necessary? What kind of impact will your child’s behavior have on the rest of the family? While we may sometimes wish that our kids came with an instruction manual, remember that you are doing the best you can and so is your child. And you are not alone. Tune in today to hear from Lauren Sims, the mom of a child with ADHD, as she shares her real-life personal journey filled with encouragement, empathy and strategies to set your child up for success.

I Just Learned My Child has ADHD — Now What? Part 1


with Glen R. Elliott, PhD, MD

Your child has just been diagnosed with ADHD…now what? Part of you might feel relieved that there’s an explanation for your child’s behavior, while another might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of parenting a child with attention challenges. ADHD is a lifelong journey filled with wonderful surprises and extraordinary obstacles. How can you best equip your child for happiness and success? In this episode, one of CHC’s foremost and beloved ADHD experts, Dr. Glen Elliott, offers sage advice as both a parent and a professional. You’ll walk away with valuable insights, practical suggestions and evidence-based words of encouragement.

I Just Learned My Child has ADHD — Now What? Part 2

EPISODE 34, SEASON 2 | AUGUST 17, 2022

with Glen R. Elliott, PhD, MD

In this episode, we continue the conversation with Dr. Glen Elliot. If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, you’ll be glad to hear that “there truly is light at the end of the tunnel.” Persistent, loving, unconditional support, effective interventions and adapting to your child’s evolving needs can lead to really positive outcomes. Dr. Elliot speaks with experience on all fronts: as an accomplished researcher, writer and practitioner on the subject, and the parent of an adult son with ADHD. Listen as he shares his wisdom on the different types of ADHD, behavioral interventions, medication considerations and other strategies for supporting your unique child.

Featured Presentations

Learn more about ADHD from CHC experts.

How We Help

CHC provides life-changing services for learning differences and mental health for young adults, kids and teens.

Our Experts

At CHC, we have learning and mental health experts who can help you overcome barriers to learning and help you develop skills that last for a lifetime. Real people you can talk to. People who can really help.

Neilson Chan, PhD


Licensed Psychologist

Learn More About DR. CHAN

Rosinel Ermio, MS


Senior Learning Specialist

Learn More About Rosinel

Melina Foden, PsyD


Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Learn More About DR. FODEN

Liberty Hebron, LPCC


Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Learn More About Liberty

Lisa Lavaysse, PsyD


Assessment Psychologist

Learn More About Dr. LAVAYSSE

Julie Abbott Olsen, MA, CCC-SLP


Speech-Language Pathologist

Learn More About Julie

Amy Tsai, PhD



Learn More About DR. TSAI

Comprehensive & Integrated Services for Learning Differences & Mental Health

CHC’s Catherine T. Harvey Center for Clinical Services

CHC therapists provide specialized, individualized and age-appropriate services for you to take charge of your own mental health and wellbeing. Services in California.

Schwab Learning Center at CHC

The SLC@CHC empowers all types of learners to adopt tools and strategies to support their unique strengths. Students and young adults with diagnosed or suspected ADHD, dyslexia and other learning disabilities discover their gifts, strengths and potential.

Stay Connected with CHC

Follow CHC on our social channels to stay in-the-know about our latest resources, services and events.