What are the symptoms of ADHD in children?

Answers from Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a pattern of inattention or hyperactive-impulsive behavior, or both, that interferes with how a child functions or develops. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, notes that a diagnosis of ADHD requires six or more signs and symptoms for at least six months from one or both of the two groups below.

A child with ADHD who has problems with attention may often:

  • Fail to pay close attention to details or make careless mistakes in schoolwork or other activities
  • Have trouble paying attention during tasks or play
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Not follow through on instructions and fail to finish schoolwork or chores
  • Have trouble organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoid, dislike or hesitate to engage in tasks that require concentration, such as schoolwork
  • Lose things needed for tasks or activities, such as toys, pencils or books
  • Be easily distracted
  • Be forgetful in daily activities

A child with ADHD who has problems with hyperactive or impulsive behavior may often:

  • Fidget with hands or feet or squirm in his or her seat
  • Leave a seat during class or in other situations when expected to remain seated
  • Run or climb in situations when it's inappropriate
  • Have difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Have trouble sitting still and may need to be "on the go"
  • Talk too much
  • Blurt out answers before questions have been finished
  • Have trouble taking turns
  • Interrupt conversations or intrude on games or other activities

Although signs of ADHD can sometimes appear in preschoolers or children even younger, diagnosing the disorder in very young children is difficult. That's because developmental problems such as language delays can be mistaken for ADHD. For that reason, children preschool age or younger suspected of having ADHD are more likely to need evaluation by a specialist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, speech pathologist, or developmental pediatrician.

If you're concerned that your child shows signs of ADHD, see your pediatrician or family doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, but it's important to have a medical evaluation first to check for other possible causes of your child's difficulties.

May 01, 2014