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How can I tell if my child has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)?

Posted by Be Well

How can I tell if my child has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)?
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sometimes called attention deficit disorder (ADD) is the most common behavioral disorder that starts in childhood.

ADHD is a medical condition that should not be confused with normal excitable, or boisterous, childhood behavior.

ADHD can run in families. It is thought that the condition is caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit nerve signals in the brain). As a result of the imbalance, the brain has difficulty processing all the information and stimulants that it receives.

What to look out for

The symptoms of ADHD usually start around the age of four. Remember that a child, or adult, with ADHD, may display some, or all, of the following symptoms constantly and excessively. The symptoms to look out for include:

  • poor concentration,
  • a tendency to be easily distracted,
  • restless, fidgety behavior,
  • difficulty sitting down, or remaining still when told to,
  • difficulty following instructions,
  • finding it difficult to wait their turn in a group situation,
  • interrupting others,
  • difficulty in playing quietly,
  • often shifting from one incomplete activity to another, and
  • little or no sense of danger, and taking part in potentially dangerous activities without seeming to think about the consequences.

Someone with ADHD may also have less control over what they do, or say (as they tend to act impulsively).

Different people who have ADHD will have different symptoms. The problems caused by ADHD are persistent and can have a negative effect on a person's life, or schooling. The condition can affect the ability of a child, or an adult, to learn, and it impact upon their self-esteem.

ADHD does not always have an impact upon academic ability and intelligence. However, half of all children with ADHD also have a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia. ADHD may have an impact on speech, language, and coordination. People with ADHD are also more likely to be depressed, anxious, and obsessive.

ADHD cannot be cured

There is no cure for ADHD but treatment is available that can help you to cope with the emotional aspects of the condition, as well as providing you with educational support. Medication can be prescribed for children to help them to improve their concentration. A change of diet can also be helpful, as can essential fatty acid supplements.

While the health team's answer above is very concise, I wanted to just add a comment.

When my son was three or four he began have much problem with impulse control issues and being extremely active.  I took him to the doctor who just said it was normal to high normal activity level for a child with Down syndrome and not to worry.

 Headstart would report displays that they had worked very hard on being immediately destroyed by my son the minute he walked in each morning.  He would just stretch out his arm and knock everything on the floor.  When we took him back to the developmental pediatrician at about 4-1/2 years old because he was about to get kicked out of his developmental kindergarten, he literally tore up the examining room despite the efforts of the doctor, her nurse and me.  Being able to see what the school and I had been expressing made all the difference in the doctor's ability to understand.

The documentation system I eventually designed (and shared in my first book Parenting Your Complex Child) to help professionals understand better what Billy Ray experiences has made a big difference in their ability to make informed recommendations before things get so intense.

I also wanted to add that I got lots of unsolicited advise and negative comments about Billy Ray's behavior from family and friends.  I wasn't strict enough and especially that I was giving him too much sugar.  One day in my frustration I mentioned the sugar comments to the pediatric psychiatrist.  I shared that Billy Ray really doesn't enjoy sugary treats and gets very few.  He laughed and said that in most children without ADHD sugar would make them active but a child with true ADD might actually be calmed by sugar because it is a stimulant like Ritalin and some of the other drugs.  I learned from that not to allow myself to feel condemned by well meaning advice that isn't always accurate.

Peggy Lou Morgan

I had to laugh as I read Peggy Lou Morgans perfect description of my son at the same age. "He would just stretch out his arm and knock everything on the floor.  When we took him back to the developmental pediatrician at about 4-1/2 years old because he was about to get kicked out of his developmental kindergarten, he literally tore up the examining room despite the efforts of the doctor, her nurse and me. "

Of course it sure wasn't funny at the time. After getting suspended from kindergarden twice and completely kicked out of sunday school, I thought I was losing my mind. He too had violent outbursts.

I had a lot of frustration and tears. I thought there was something wrong with me as a parent. I'd hear advice anywhere from "Oh he's just all boy" to "He should be institutionalized"... somewhere in the middle we found sanity.


Best of luck to you in your amazing future journey if your child is indeed ADHD.

 Tracy Nicolaus 

My son (#2 out of 4) has ADHD. I want to add that he was very aware of his issues. That he was very unhappy and had very low self esteem. When his ADHD is managed, even half way, he is happy and mostly confident. He was diagnosed in the 1st grade and he is getting ready to start 5th, From being unhappy and having physical symptoms from stress such as acid indigestions, upset stomach, head aches and being angry, henow is mostly happy, confident and he actually has good friends (something he didn't have the first few years of school). It is a bumpy road with constant adjustments for the child and family. It can and will be frustrating! Especially comments from people who think it is just poor parenting etc. I have 4 boys, only one with ADHD, so maybe not parenting issues! It is an illness. I can't stress that enough. Good luck to you, you are your child's best advocate!

my son is 10 1/2 he has had violent outburst,s and has it and kicked me more than once, one time when i was 8mths pregnant i was tidying his room as he would not do it he stood on his bed and jumped onto my tummy i was in so much pain i went mad at him he just stood there grinning at me, it all started when he was 3yrs old his dad died but did not know started by him running out of nursery and up the street, now he is nearly 11 he is stronger and nearly as big as me im getting to the point where i dont know how long i can cope the doctors over here in england will not put him on meds, we have 6 children aged my 10yr old a girl who,s 9 a boy 7, a girl 5, boy 4 and a baby who,s 8mths he picks on all of them apart from the baby andwhen asked why he does not no, ive tried every thing taking away his comp, tv, xbox 360, grounding him, stoping him from using lap top, pocket money, ive tried spending time with just me and him, nothing works. does anyone have any ideas? help!
im mallory and i told my mom i might have ADD but she never believes me and im really serious im allways moving and my leg constantly shake i am destraced very very easly im impatiant and lose things all the time after i just had them i dont know how to get her to understand she thinks i m kidding and she thinks its because ima teenager and when im working on my homework ill just go off and do somthing else i allways am getting in trouble for starring of in space at school someone ploz help??;();
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