ADHD / ADD

Signs and Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder in Kids

The three primary characteristics of ADD/ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The signs and symptoms a child with attention deficit disorder has depends on which characteristics predominate.

Children with ADD/ADHD may be:

  • Inattentive, but not hyperactive or impulsive.
  • Hyperactive and impulsive, but able to pay attention.
  • Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive (the most common form of ADD/ADHD).

Children who only have inattentive symptoms of ADD/ADHD are often overlooked, since they’re not disruptive. However, the symptoms of inattention have consequences: getting in hot water with parents and teachers for not following directions; underperforming in school; or clashing with other kids over not playing by the rules.

Spotting ADD / ADHD at different ages

Because we expect very young children to be easily distractible and hyperactive, it’s the impulsive behaviors—the dangerous climb, the blurted insult—that often stand out in preschoolers with ADD/ADHD.

By age four or five, though, most children have learned how to pay attention to others, to sit quietly when instructed to, and not to say everything that pops into their heads. So by the time children reach school age, those with ADD/ADHD stand out in all three behaviors: inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Inattentive signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD

It isn’t that children with ADD/ADHD can’t pay attention: when they’re doing things they enjoy or hearing about topics in which they’re interested, they have no trouble focusing and staying on task. But when the task is repetitive or boring, they quickly tune out.

Staying on track is another common problem. Children with ADD/ADHD often bounce from task to task without completing any of them, or skip necessary steps in procedures. Organizing their schoolwork and their time is harder for them than it is for most children.

Kids with ADD/ADHD also have trouble concentrating if there are things going on around them; they usually need a calm, quiet environment in order to stay focused.

Symptoms of inattention in children:

  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
  • Appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
  • Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
  • Gets bored with a task before it’s completed
  • Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items

Hyperactive signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD

The most obvious sign of ADD/ADHD is hyperactivity. While many children are naturally quite active, kids with hyperactive symptoms of attention deficit disorder are always moving.

They may try to do several things at once, bouncing around from one activity to the next. Even when forced to sit still which can be very difficult for them their foot is tapping, their leg is shaking, or their fingers are drumming.

Symptoms of hyperactivity in children:

  • Constantly fidgets and squirms
  • Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
  • Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
  • Talks excessively
  • Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
  • Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
  • May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”

Impulsive signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD

The impulsivity of children with ADD/ADHD can cause problems with self-control. Because they censor themselves less than other kids do, they’ll interrupt conversations, invade other people’s space, ask irrelevant questions in class, make tactless observations, and ask overly personal questions.

Instructions like “Be patient” and “Just wait a little while” are twice as hard for children with ADD/ADHD to follow as they are for other youngsters.

Children with impulsive signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD also tend to be moody and to overreact emotionally. As a result, others may start to view the child as disrespectful, weird, or needy.

Symptoms of impulsivity in children:

  • Acts without thinking
  • Blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called on or hear the whole question
  • Can’t wait for his or her turn in line or in games
  • Says the wrong thing at the wrong time
  • Often interrupts others
  • Intrudes on other people’s conversations or games
  • Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums
  • Guesses, rather than taking time to solve a problem

Further information for Parents dealing with Schools.

To manage a problem that cannot be cured requires insight and understanding. To be an effective advocate requires knowledge. You should set out to gather as much information as you can about ADHD and effective treatments. The right clinician can provide such resources as well as suggestions for future reading.

An increasing volume of research literature is being generated to define the types of educational strategies and environments best for children and teens with ADHD.

Creating the best educational climate for your child requires first creating a working alliance with your child’s educational team. Trust and information sharing is essential.

Fortunately, educators are increasingly aware of ADHD and have an increasing number of resources available to them. In some circumstances, given the co-occurrence of specific learning disabilities, as well as the fact that children with ADHD often fall behind in academic subjects requiring practice for proficiency (e.g., spelling, written language, math facts, etc.), identifying a community based educational specialist well-versed in ADHD is recommended. Such an individual might work with your child on a regular basis or be consulted as needed.

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