Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a type of mental health disorder that can cause impulsive and hyperactive behaviors. While both adults and children can have this condition, it is more commonly observed in children. This complex neurodevelopmental disorder is known to affect a child’s performance at school and also their relationships. The signs and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder vary from person to person and can be challenging to recognize if you don’t know what to look for. A child may experience some of the individual symptoms of ADHD, but not all. In order to make a diagnosis, your child’s doctor will evaluate your child against various criteria. Here are some of the signs your child could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a type of mental health disorder that typically gets diagnosed in childhood.(1,2,3) The condition causes above-normal levels of impulsive and hyperactive behavior. People with ADHD are known to have trouble focusing their attention on any one task or sitting still for a long period of time. Adults can also have ADHD, but it is usually diagnosed in children more.(4,5,6) This complex neurodevelopmental disease can impact a child’s performance in school, at home, and even affect their relationships. The symptoms of ADHD vary from person to person and can be challenging to recognize at times. Your child may be experiencing some of the individual symptoms of the condition, but not all. Due to this, to make a confirmed diagnosis, your child’s doctor will evaluate your child against several criteria.(7,8)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is usually diagnosed in children by the time they become teenagers. The average age of diagnosing moderate attention deficit hyperactivity deficit is around seven years old.(9)
Older children who exhibit the symptoms of ADHD may have the condition, but they are more likely to have shown more elaborate symptoms earlier in life and would have gotten diagnosed at that point.
Signs Your Child Could Have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Here are some of the common signs that can indicate that your child may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
One of the main symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder shows up in the form of a child interrupting others while they are talking. They may also interrupt conversations they are not a part of or want to part of games they are not a part of.(10)
Focusing Only On Self
Another common sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children often appears like an inability to recognize other people’s desires and needs. This can again cause two more symptoms – interrupting and having trouble waiting for their own turn.(11)
Not Wanting To Wait For Their Turn
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have trouble waiting for their turn to come. This might be during classroom activities or while playing games with others. They may even throw a tantrum if someone does not allow them to get their turn.
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are usually unable to sit still. They are more prone to get up, run around, squirm in the chair when made to sit, and generally fidget around.(12)
Trouble Keeping Their Emotions In Check
A child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is more likely to have trouble keeping their emotions in check. Younger kids are prone to having temper tantrums. Older children are known to have outbursts of anger, usually at inappropriate times.(13)
Having Unfinished Tasks
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are likely to express interest in many different things, but they are known to have problems finishing the tasks. For example, they may begin their homework, chores, or projects but quickly move on to the next project or activity that catches their interest without finishing the first activity.
Unable To Play Quietly
Being fidgety makes it difficult for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to play quietly. They also find it challenging to calmly participate in leisure activities that require patience.
Lack of Focus
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have been found to have more trouble paying attention to tasks and even to someone who is speaking directly to them. They may say they have heard what you are saying, but they will not be able to repeat back whatever was just said to them.
Avoiding Tasks That Need Extra Effort
The lack of focus may cause a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to avoid doing activities or tasks that require them to put in sustained mental effort. This may include activities like doing their homework or paying attention in class.
It is not necessary that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are always loud and rowdy. Another symptom of having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is being quieter than and not as involved as the other kids. A child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is also more likely to daydream, stare into space, and ignore what is going on around them.(14)
More Prone To Making Mistakes
Since children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder often have trouble following instructions that need them to plan or execute a plan or follow a set of instructions precisely as they are written, it increases the likelihood of such children making careless mistakes. However, in no way does this imply they are lazy or that they lack intelligence. It is just one of the many symptoms of the condition.
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder tend to be forgetful in their daily life. They may forget to do their homework or their chores. They are also more likely to lose things like toys and stationery items more often.(15)
Having Trouble Being Organized
A child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder often has trouble keeping a track of their activities and tasks they need to complete. This can lead to problems at school because they usually find it difficult to prioritize what work has to be done first, finish their homework, school projects, and any other assignments.
Symptoms Can Be Observed In Multiple Settings
A child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is going to exhibit symptoms of their condition in more than one setting. For example, it’s not like they will only show the symptoms at home. They will show a lack of focus both at home and at school. The symptoms will be exhibited in different settings.
Do The Symptoms Change As The Child Gets Older?
As children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder grow older, they are unlikely to have the level of self-control as other kids their age. This may make adolescents and kids with this condition appear to be more immature as compared to other children their age who do not have ADHD.
Older children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may continue to have difficulties with day to day tasks like:
- Reading and understanding social cues.
- Focusing their school work and assignments
- Maintaining personal hygiene without being prompted.
- Compromising with their classmates and friends
- Helping out or completing their chores at home
- Managing their time efficiently
- Driving safely.
All children are likely to exhibit some of the behaviors mentioned above at some point or the other in their lives. Daydreaming, interrupting others, and fidgeting are some common behaviors observed in children. However, you should start thinking about getting a doctor’s opinion if you notice the following:
- Your child is frequently displaying the signs and symptoms of ADHD.
- Their behavior has started affecting their daily life and success in school.
- Their behavior is leading to negative interactions with the people in their life, especially their peers.
Remember that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a treatable condition, and the condition can be managed with medications and therapies. If your child is diagnosed with the condition, you should research about all the available treatment options. Set up an appointment to meet with a psychologist or doctor to discuss about the best course of treatment going forward that will help your child adjust and do better in school and at home.
- Barkley, R.A., 1998. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Scientific American, 279(3), pp.66-71.
- Swanson, J.M., Volkow, N.D., Newcorn, J., Casey, B.J., Moyzis, R., Grandy, D. and Posner, M., 2006. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science.
- Barkley, R.A., 2006. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Guilford Publications.
- Barkley, R.A. and Murphy, K.R., 2006. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A clinical workbook. Guilford Press.
- Biederman, J., 2005. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a selective overview. Biological psychiatry, 57(11), pp.1215-1220.
- Barkley, R.A., 2003. Issues in the diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children. Brain and development, 25(2), pp.77-83.
- Wolraich, M.L., Hannah, J.N., Pinnock, T.Y., Baumgaertel, A. and Brown, J., 1996. Comparison of diagnostic criteria for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in a county-wide sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 35(3), pp.319-324.
- Goldman, L.S., Genel, M., Bezman, R.J. and Slanetz, P.J., 1998. Diagnosis and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Jama, 279(14), pp.1100-1107.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Trends in Health Care Provider-Diagnosis and Treatment for ADHD. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/features/key-findings-adhd72013.html> [Accessed 15 February 2021].
- Schachar, R.J., Tannock, R. and Logan, G., 1993. Inhibitory control, impulsiveness, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Clinical Psychology Review, 13(8), pp.721-739. Adler, L., 2007. Scattered minds: Hope and help for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Penguin.
- Pliszka, S.R., 1992. Comorbidity of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and overanxious disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 31(2), pp.197-203.
- Martel, M.M., 2009. Research Review: A new perspective on attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder: emotion dysregulation and trait models. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50(9), pp.1042-1051.
- Somer, E., Soffer-Dudek, N. and Ross, C.A., 2017. The comorbidity of daydreaming disorder (maladaptive daydreaming). The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 205(7), pp.525-530.
- Arnsten, A.F., 2006. Fundamentals of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: circuits and pathways. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 67(suppl 8), pp.7-12.
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