Harnessing Hyperactivity


Dr Kimberley O'Brien

Harnessing Hyperactivity

Dr Kimberley O’Brien speaks to Rose, the mother of a seven-year-old boy who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), about her journey to obtain a diagnosis and how she manages her son’s hyperactivity.

Rose reveals to Dr Kimberley that she first noticed her son’s hyperactivity when he was 18 months old. “He just couldn't stay on task with anything,” she says. “He would bounce around from one thing to another and he couldn't sit still.”

When Dr Kimberley describes children with ADHD who come into the Quirky Kid clinic as wanting to look at everything at once and emptying out all the drawers, Rose can relate. She explains that it took her a while to understand that her son was actually looking at everything and not just making a mess.

Dr Kimberley asks Rose how she harnesses her son’s hyperactivity, Rose explains that he can focus on tasks he’s interested in, such as LEGO and his iPad, for hours. When it comes to getting him to focus on tasks he’s less interested in, breaking down tasks, giving him clear instructions and using visual aids helps.

Next, Dr Kimberley asks Rose to share her experience with obtaining an ADHD diagnosis and deciding whether medication was appropriate for her son. Rose says that being diagnosed was the best thing for her son because it allowed him to start taking medication that has helped him focus and to start receiving the support he needs at school.

Further Reading


Accommodating Hyperactivity in Children with ADHD

With many years of experience working with children who have ADHD, Dr Kimberley explains Quirky Kid’s in-depth assessment process. Parents can find out more about the Conners 3 assessment tool and behavioural assessments that are used at Quirky Kid to diagnose ADHD.

What you will learn in this episode:

  • How to have a child assessed for ADHD
  • How obtaining a diagnosis can help a child with ADHD receive the support they need
  • How to harness the hyperactivity of a child with ADHD
  • How Quirky Kid can help

We're Hiring - Apply Now

Quirky Kid continues to grow, develop and evolve. As a result, we have new positions for child psychologists and a mental health clinician (Social Worker, Occupational Therapist, Mental Health Nursing or Psychologist) who shares Quirky Kid’s passion for working with children – Together, amazing things happen.

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Read the full transcript below under references.

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Dr Kimberley O'Brien (00:04):

Hi, I'm Dr Kimberley O'Brien, child psychologist, and founder of the Quirky Kid Clinic. We are a child psychology clinic as well as a publishing house, and we've put together this podcast series to bring to you the stories that we hear on a daily basis, and to share the practical strategies that we do also share with our clients. Today, we're going to be talking about helping children who find it difficult to concentrate. We're talking about harnessing hyperactivity in a positive way. We're talking to Rose who's doing the interview with her two children in the background, although it's not very distracting. So, I hope you enjoy this episode.

Rose (00:44):

My son, he's a smart inquisitive child and he loves to have a chat. He likes to know the how and why of everything, and he really loves building and construction. It helps bring out his imagination. He likes to discover new games on his iPad, and he will tell anyone that's willing to listen about all of his games that he plays. My name's Rose. I'm a mother of two boys, one that is nearly seven that has ADHD and a two-year-old boy as well.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien (01:18):

And Rose, when did you notice that hyperactivity and inattention were a problem for your eldest son?

Rose (01:24):

I noticed it quite early. He was around a year-and-a-half old and he just couldn't stay on task with anything. He would just kind of bounce around from one thing to another and he just couldn't sit still.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien (01:41):

I can picture that in the clinic. Usually, they'll come in. Kids that have ADHD traits, they'll really just want to look at absolutely everything all at once, pulling open all the drawers, emptying things out, then onto the next box, empty that out. It's not like they're really generally engaged in any one thing. It's like this massive exploration that takes about three minutes and then the room just is a complete mess, but they're still searching for more. So, I don't know if that sounds like your son, but can you kind of paint a picture of what that might look like on a daily basis?

Rose (02:13):

Yeah, that certainly resonates. When he was younger, that's exactly how it looked. So, it would look like this big destruction, just like he was just dumping things out, but in reality, he was dumping, looking, off to the next thing, dumping, looking, off to the next thing. Now that he's a little bit older, it's not as messy, but it still looks a little bit similar. More so with my son, it affects him kind of socially. He can't keep up with his friends with conversations. So, they'll start talking about something and he'll get distracted by something and he'll just take off, or they'll start talking about something and he'll start talking about something else. In his school life, sort at school, he still has concerns with tasks. So, initiating tasks, keeping on tasks, finishing tasks because he's just very distracted.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien (03:13):

I'm wondering what you did to try and harness the hyperactivity. Was there more extracurricular activities or trying to give him more things to look at? Did you work at his pace or maybe try to slow him down? What did you find was most useful?

Rose (03:28):

It's been a little bit of a juggle to work out what works well for him. I do find that he does slow down with tasks that he is very interested in and he kind of just really puts all of his focus into that. So, things like building and construction, he can sit there and play with LEGO and other types of blocks for hours. When it comes to his iPad and different games, he can sit on that for hours, but again, he kind of bounces from game to game. So, he'll start playing something and then close that, and he'll open something else and he'll play that for a little bit. So, it's never, never harnessed in its entirety, but there are other supports for things that he's not interested in as well that I found have worked. So, just really breaking down tasks for him. So, giving him very clear instructions, keeping his expectations consistent, and visual aids as well. He seems to follow things a little better when he can see what he needs to do. When he's told verbally, it's almost like it goes in one ear and out the other.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien (04:37):

And I was going to ask you about an ADHD diagnosis. Did you decide to get your son assessed, and when did that come into the picture? At what age?

Rose (04:46):

My son was diagnosed when he was six.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien (04:49):

And was that helpful or unhelpful in thinking about school and labels? Is it something you'd recommend for other parents?

Rose (04:56):

I definitely recommend it. It has been the best thing for my son. A label was never a concern for me. If anything, what it's done, it's given him the extra support that he's needed. So, now school understands his needs a little better. At home, we understand him a little better as a person, and the pediatrician has recommended a medication that has significantly helped my son.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien (05:24):

That sounds similar to lots of families that come to the clinic in that we'll do the assessment. We usually do the Conners 3, that's the standard or the gold standard in ADHD assessments, as well as observing them in the clinic, and going to school typically and doing a school observation to see how they compare when they're with their peers, and we make recommendations, and one of them is to just check in with your pediatrician to see whether medication might be appropriate because it's not always appropriate. Can you tell us a little bit more about the pros and cons of using medication for kids with ADHD?

Rose (05:55):

Yeah. Well, I found with my son, there's been a lot of pros. So, he's been able to pay attention to tasks a lot easier. He can remain focused for longer as well. He's finishing a lot more tasks than what he was previously and it's been seen across the board so at home, at school, in his other therapies. Particularly speech therapy, he has a lisp and it involves a lot of sort of just sitting at the desk work and constantly repeating those sounds, and before, he just was up and down, off the chair, around the room. Now, he can get through a whole session just sitting and doing what's expected of him. The only cons that I've come across is really his appetite being suppressed when he's on his medication, and that's usually the time that he's at school. So, the way I work around that is by giving him a bigger breakfast and giving him a bigger meal after school and a big dinner as well.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien (06:53):

Great. And I wonder, Rose, how has it been at school? Have there been any issue in the beginning and now they've been resolved or did you get any additional support in terms of like a teacher's aid? Yeah, how did it go after you had the ADHD diagnosis in the school setting?

Rose (07:09):

It has really helped with school. So, his teacher now understands the why behind why he does things and why he can't stay focused, or if there are too many distractions why he's not finishing his tasks. It has meant that she has implemented some other strategies as well like giving him some extra breaks, giving him some visual aids, having a little downtime area as well in the classroom for him so when he gets a bit overwhelmed because any of the tasks that are expected of him, he can have a break and reregulate and come back and try again.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien (07:48):

That sounds great. So good to have supportive teachers on side when you're looking for a network to communicate with on a regular basis so that you can praise the positives and prioritize the next step and have a consistent approach moving forward. Thank you so much for your time today. That was amazing. I'm so appreciative, Rose. With the kids in the background, you did a great job.

Rose (08:08):

Thank you. Thank you for your time too.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien (08:12):

A huge thank you to the lovely Rose who juggled that interview so beautifully and shared so much. So, thank you again for listening to this topic on harnessing hyperactivity and inattention. If you'd like to find out more about the Conners 3, and you're thinking about a diagnosis and how it might be helpful, go to the Quirky Kid website, that's quirkykid.com.au. In our next episode, we're talking about encopresis, that's toileting issues, and you'll need to listen up to find out the details. I'm Dr. Kimberley O'Brien. I'll see you next time.


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