ADHD can be difficult to predict; many of the risk factors and causes of ADHD, including exposure to lead and other toxins, are easy to miss if parents aren’t aware of them. In addition, the most common symptoms tend to be behaviors that all children display at one time or another.
As a parent, you are the most important player in the diagnosis of ADHD. While a single occurrence of one or more symptoms is not usually cause for concern — a pattern, on the other hand, should not be ignored.
It’s time to seek a doctor’s advice when the symptoms when they cause problems with normal functioning; parents should look for issues that occur repeatedly over the course of six months. Each situation is unique, so a doctor will prescribe different treatments and lifestyle changes for each child.
Trouble Paying Attention
One of the most common symptoms of ADHD in children is inattention. Kids may appear to be ignoring authority figures, looking off into space or focusing on other things in the room. Homework and chores can seem impossible for kids with ADHD, and you might find yourself in a constant battle to get your child to complete a task. Because of their difficulty paying attention, the child might make mistakes that should be obvious or easy to catch in the moment.
Staying organized requires a great deal of focus, which can be challenging for children with ADHD. The child might find it impossible to maintain a basic organizational system in a closet, desk or toy box. This problem can persist for long periods of time, even with help from parents and teachers. Because they have trouble keeping belongings in a set place, kids may constantly lose items such as shoes, books and homework assignments.
Inability to Sit Still
Children tend to be active, but kids with ADHD often take it to the next level. They may fidget constantly and find it impossible to stop moving, even when they know it’s inappropriate. The phrase “driven by a motor” is often used to describe children with ADHD. Some parents notice this problem after a teacher reports that the child cannot stay seated in class, even when reprimanded or repeatedly admonished. This symptom may also present itself at bedtime, during family dinners or in church. Look for small movements, such as tapping of the fingers or feet.
Focus on the Self
Kids with ADHD might display signs of self-focus, occasionally to the detriment of other relationships. They may not be able to share toys with other children, or resist taking turns during games. During a conversation that does not interest or engage the child, they may interrupt the speaker. ADHD can also cause children to appear intrusive or rude. This behavior can make it difficult to maintain friendships with other children.
Poor Emotional Management
Emotions can be difficult for many young children, but ADHD can make it harder to manage emotions. Kids with ADHD might struggle with appropriate expression of their feelings. Frequent angry or upset outbursts can be a symptom; parents should look for a pattern that’s unusual in comparison to other children of the same age. Children might also display difficulty handling strong emotions such as anger, frustration or sadness.
Extreme impulsivity can be a challenge for children who deal with ADHD. If you notice that your child acts immediately and without thinking through consequences, it may be cause for concern. For example, the child might see something he wants and reach for it instantly, even if it’s in a dangerous place or in another’s child’s hands. Standing in line can be difficult for impulsive children, so you may get reports from teachers about cutting in line or difficulty waiting. You might also find that your child blurts out inappropriate things in public. Children who act on impulse rather than intention might be unable to explain their actions; they may also say that they couldn’t stop the behavior in the moment.
Lack of Follow-Through
Sticking with a single task is often a struggle for a child with ADHD. You might notice that your child starts projects, games or activities but moves on quickly. This can start fights with siblings, particularly when one child refuses to finish a game. ADHD can cause problems with homework or chores. Because it is hard for a child with ADHD to concentrate on a task, you might notice that he avoids situations and activities that require him to focus and think for long periods of time.
Kids with ADHD tend to be distracted, often by sensory input that other children do not notice. Tiny distractions, such as the sound of a bird, a subtle change in lighting or small movements, can pull the child’s focus away in an instant. Once the focus is gone, it may be difficult to get back on track. Kids who are easily distracted may not see obstacles in their path, making them prone to accidents and small injuries. Distractibility can also cause problems with test-taking and quiet time at school.
Kids can be a chatty bunch, but kids with ADHD may be particularly talkative. You may notice that your child babbles constantly without actually saying anything or demonstrating a conversational purpose. Chatter can become problematic if it persists during quiet times in church or in the classroom. At home, the talking can make it difficult to carry on other conversations or complete quiet activities of your own.
While many children with ADHD display dramatic, energetic signs of inattentiveness and lack of focus, others tend to go inward. Daydreaming, to the point that it negatively impacts other tasks, can be a quieter, easy-to-miss symptom. If your child sits down to do homework, but spends an hour lost in thought, it can be a sign to pay closer attention. Look for daydreaming that happens frequently, especially at school; teachers may comment that your child seems dreamy, unfocused or distracted. Daydreaming can be a sign of ADHD in girls, in particular.
ADHD is hard on children, families and parents, but with the correct diagnosis and treatment, relief is possible. If you notice that your child exhibits many of these behaviors over an extended period of time, it’s important to visit a specialist. Treatment for ADHD is different for each child; in most cases, doctors recommend a combination of medication and behavioral therapy that helps kids learn how to manage their symptoms and respond appropriately. With the right treatment, you can help your child feel more comfortable and learn to manage the symptoms of ADHD.