Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
The primary symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention, but these symptoms may look different depending on the child. Children who have ADHD often show symptoms while they are very young.
Preschoolers with ADHD are more likely to have trouble in daycare or preschool, have problems with peer relationships, and be more prone to injury. School aged children with ADHD often struggle with academics, problems at home, and successful participation in sport and activities. Teens with ADHD are at higher risk for educational and job related challenges, as well as social challenges. Early intervention and treatment has been shown to significantly decrease these risks.
There are 3 presentations of ADHD- (1) Inattentive, (2) Hyperactive-Impulsive and (3) Combined (showing symptoms of each).
Tthis is when a child with ADHD has difficulty focusing and paying attention, and may appear to ‘tune out’ others):
Has difficulty sustaining attention
Struggles to follow directions
Does not appear to listen
Is easily distracted/forgetful
Has difficulty with organization
Avoids or dislikes tasks that require a lot of thinking
(2) Hyperactive Impulsive
This is the most common symptom, and children are often described as ‘on the go’.
Has difficulty remaining seated
Acts as if driven by a motor
Runs or climbs excessively, often in unsafe ways
Fidgets with hands/feet or squirms in chair
Talks excessively, blurts outs answers or interrupts
Difficulty waiting or taking turns
Difficulty engaging in activities quietly
May be aggressive with other children
(3) Combined Type
This the most common type.
Has symptoms from both lists above
Diagnosis of ADHD
There is no single test to diagnose ADHD. A comprehensive diagnostic test is important to establish a diagnosis, and rule out other causes or conditions. A complete test may include parent/child interview, medical history review, parent/teacher completed behavior rating scales, psychological testing and/or intelligence testing, and spending time with the child to observe behavior. Additional neurodevelopmental, hearing, vision, or learning disability screenings may also be included to rule out other causes of symptoms.
Several types of professionals can diagnose ADHD, including clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and neurologists. Regardless of who diagnoses your child, the use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is necessary. To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must have a specified number of symptoms for at least 6 months.
A child can be evaluated for ADHD beginning at age 4. If you suspect that your child is displaying symptoms, the first step is discussing your concerns with your pediatrician, who may refer you to a specialist for an evaluation.