As a parent, it can be an overwhelming thought to consider that your child may struggle with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD affects the attention span and focusing ability of children and adults. It typically begins during childhood, can persist through the teenage years, and may continue into adulthood. It is not unheard of, however, for ADHD symptoms to be dormant until later in life — do not dismiss the behavior of your high school student if you believe ADHD may be the culprit.
Because many children are fidgety and active by nature, it can be difficult to distinguish normal childhood behavior from what may be definite symptoms of the attention disorder. By observing your child’s behavior closely, you may be able to spot early signs of ADHD and begin a treatment plan that works for your family.
Below, the three most common signs and symptoms of ADHD are discussed in further detail:
As noted in the full name, “attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder,” hyperactivity is one of the most obvious signs a child may be suffering from ADHD. Children, particularly very young children, who suffer from ADHD will often possess extreme amounts of energy. These children are unable to sit still, listen quietly, or focus on directions being given. They will often begin projects or tasks enthusiastically, but are later unable to focus and finish the process.
Hyperactive children will appear anxious and squirmy, having a constant need to be moving and interacting with everyone and everything in sight. Children with ADHD are also known to be particularly chatty, unable to refrain from talking at rapid speeds. If your child is energetic, it does not automatically mean ADHD is present. When coupled with other symptoms, however, hyperactivity can be a telltale behavior.
Another common sign of ADHD is inattention, or the inability to focus and pay attention. Individuals suffering from ADHD are easily distracted, and quickly become bored. If your child seems to struggle immensely with organization and staying on task during the school day, it could be a sign of ADHD.
Inattentive children suffering from ADHD are notorious daydreamers; their thoughts wander constantly and wander away from assignments and tasks. Both homework and work performed at school are difficult to complete; extra time is almost always required to re-read sections of books or to work through problems slowly. As a parent, it is easy to become frustrated when your child is unable to manage his or her own school load without significant help. It is important to remember, however, that the affects of ADHD can be seen throughout an entire lifetime, and that patience and extra help may indeed be required throughout your child’s schooling years.
While inattentiveness is often combined with hyperactivity in children or teenagers with ADHD, it is also possible for the symptom to present itself in isolation — those who are inattentive can also be quieter and more relaxed than those who suffer from hyperactivity.
Impulsivity, the last of the “ADHD Core Three,” is another frequently seen ADHD symptom. Impulsivity is commonly seen in children who are old enough to have outgrown impulsive behaviors, such as blurting out unexpectedly or disregarding dangerous situations, such as running around in parking lots. Children who suffer from ADHD may display a lack of restraint in their daily lives — cutting in lines, interrupting teachers, taking multiples turns during games, or crying over meaningless things.
Those who suffer from ADHD may have a difficult time mastering the basics of self-control that are second nature to most people as they reach early adolescence. Your child’s impulsivity, if untreated, can become a greater danger to him as he grows older—as decisions grow more important and actions result in more serious consequences.
While every child can display behaviors from the above categories from time to time, the combination of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity in your child’s life may be a sign that she is living with ADHD. While the symptoms of ADHD may look slightly different in each individual, it is important to consult your doctor if you believe your child may be suffering from the disorder.