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ADHD Challenges, Strengths, and Strategies in Youth Work


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can present challenges and strengths when you work with young people. As you look deeper at ADHD, you will notice opportunities to encourage young people to create positive outcomes. Let’s learn strategies you can add to your youth work toolbox.

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    ADHD types and challenges in young people

    ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting how the brain develops. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are three different types of ADHD. An ADHD diagnosis depends on which types of symptoms are strongest in the individual.

    Predominantly Inattentive Presentation includes these types of challenges:

    • It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task
    • Difficulty with paying attention to details, following instructions, or conversations
    • The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines

    Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation includes these types of challenges:

    • The person fidgets and talks a lot
    • It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework)
    • Younger children may run, jump or climb constantly
    • The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity
    • Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times
    • It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions
    • A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others

    Combined Presentation:

    • Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person
    • The person may experience many or all of the same challenges outlined above

    Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well. Oftentimes, ADHD is understood only as having negative outcomes. But the more you learn about neurodiversity, the better you’ll be able to see how ADHD also has positive outcomes.

    ADHD strengths in young people

    Now, let’s focus on the strengths of a young person with ADHD. As you read each of these strengths, think about some ways you can help young people build on these strengths in your youth work. What does it look like for you when you incorporate their strengths into your work with young people?

    • Creative
    • Engaged
    • Funny
    • Emotionally intuitive

    Finally, here are some strategies you can learn and put into practice today.

    Strategies to assist young people with ADHD

    With an understanding of some of the challenges and strengths young people with ADHD experience, you will be better equipped to be a supportive resource. Again, think about what this looks like for you when you implement these strategies into your work with young people:

    • Encourage movement
    • Set up routines
    • Provide opportunities for role plays
    • Provide physical activities that boost dopamine, like playing sports
    • Ensure positive relationships with peers and adults

    You are a very resourceful youth worker. A youth worker is creative, engaged, and creates positive relationships with young people. You are building your skills every day and can create the space for young people to discover their strengths. Imagine how a young person feels when you understand their experience with ADHD. You help them identify and use their strengths to create positive outcomes in their life.

    Ready to expand your knowledge of ADHD and how to support young people? Check out the YIPA training, ADHD Awareness and Strategies for Youth Workers.

    About the author

    Joanne Rice is the member satisfaction specialist of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us! To ask Joanne a question or share your feedback about this blog, email

    To ask Joanne a question or share your feedback about this blog, email

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