Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)




Premature Infants Particularly Vulnerable to ADHD

January 8, 2018
Dee Rapposelli

ADHD risk was confirmed to be higher in persons who were born very or extremely premature and/or were of very low or extremely low birth weight, with an OR that was 3.04 higher than controls (95% CI, 2.19-4.21). The more extreme the prematurity or low birth weight, the higher the OR. That is, persons who were born very/extreme premature and of very/extremely low weight were about 3 times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than those who had term, normal-weight births. Whereas the risk was doubled in the very premature/low birth weight, it was quadrupled in the extremely premature/low birth weight.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting kids from all backgrounds with symptoms that can continue into adulthood. ADHD is characterized by inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. The diagnosis is either ADHD with Hyperactivity or without Hyperactivity. The term ADD is not used anymore. Things to consider for this age group of 13 – 17 years old are what does ADHD look like at this age and its special considerations. Is this a late diagnosis in the teenage years?

It’s not uncommon to have trouble sitting still, concentrating and being impulsive. But as we get older for some people this remains a problem that interferes with everyday life. Teenagers from 13 – 17 usually have an increase in work load from school, they are usually getting jobs and homelife demands increase, new skills are learned such as driving and navigating a world without your parents beside you. This might be a time that a few kids start to struggle and show more attention drawing behaviours.

Teenagers with ADHD may experience:

Distractible and lack of focus

Self-focused behaviour

Hyperactivity and fidgeting trouble sitting still

Heightened emotions and rejection sensitive to criticize more so than the average teen

Impulsive and poor decision making

Poor concentration and trouble finishing tasks

Disorganization and forgetfulness

This are just a few symptoms that are specific to teenagers

If your teenager has this diagnosis or you are seeking a diagnosis it’s important to remind yourself that there are so many really successful people that have ADHD and it does not limit the chances of living a happy life. However, without identification and proper treatment, ADHD may affect a teenager’s mood, confidence, school performance and job performance. It can leave parents frustrated because they are not understanding the true problem at the core of their behaviour problems. Early identification and treatment are extremely important.

For teens not diagnosed in childhood, obtaining a diagnosis of ADHD in adolescence can be a little more difficult for a few reasons.

  • To qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, symptoms must be present in some way prior to age 12 and this can be challenging recalling information from years ago.
  • Many of the symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental DisordersFifth Edition(DSM-5) diagnostic criteria are for younger children and may not be relevant to teens.
  • Getting reliable reports of teens’ symptoms from surrounding observers, such as parents or teachers, is more difficult. Teenagers usually have several different teachers, each of whom see them for only a small portion of the day in addition to this parents are likely to have less direct contact with your teen during the teenage years than you did during their younger childhood.
  • Some of the striking symptoms of ADHD, such as extreme hyperactivity, may be more subtle in teens than in younger children.
  • The presence of other disorders may complicate the diagnosis of ADHD.

It can be helpful for the teenager to understand this diagnosis so that they can start to understand their challenges and regain confidence and look for school and work options that can improve the overall quality of their life.

Many of your teens’ problems at home, at school, and in social settings are there because of neurological delays. ADHD is linked to problems with Executive Skills (the brain-based functions that help teens regulate behaviour, recognize the need for guidance, set and achieve goals, balance desires with responsibilities, and learn to function independently).  Executive Thinking Dysfunction.


With treatment and sometimes a combination of medication, behaviour therapy, individual and family support, parents can help their teens avoid or minimize the risks for negative outcomes. New skills and techniques can be learned to help outcomes be more positive. Coming to terms with a new diagnosis or some escalation in behaviour can often put us in a hopeless frame of thinking and its not hopeless. The future can be very bright for these kids with the right help and with the involvement of the school they attend.

If you have concerns for your teen around ADHD behaviours, first see your GP who can refer you to a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Paediatician or other supportive care professionals.

If your teen is diagnosed with ADHD, your health care professional will discuss treatments, which may include medications.   It is helpful to hear about all the options and their success rate and side effects and make an informed decision with your teenager and health care professional.

Famous people with ADHD

Steven Spielberg
Richard Bronson
Walt Disney
Emma Watson
Dick Smith

Useful links

In Australia October is ADHD Awareness Month

Need support? NurtureConnect allows you to connect with our NurtureProgram support team, or call our 24 hour NurtureLine 1300 622 243 or join our Facebook community.


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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].