Most children are evaluated for ADHD shortly after they enter grade school because their inability to focus, follow directions and control behavior becomes a real barrier to success in that structured setting.
ADHD has three subtypes; predominately hyperactive-impulsive, predominately inattentive, and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. That means your child may have all of the symptoms in one category, or several from each.
The symptoms listed below come from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, (DSM IV) and are the criteria a doctor would use to diagnose your child. However, because living, breathing kids are more than a collection of lists in a diagnostic manual, we'll also provide some examples of how these behaviors can play out in real life.
For the behaviors listed below to be truly considered signs of ADHD, they must last for six months, be more severe than in other children the same age—i.e., they're causing significant problems at school, home and/or in social settings—and some symptoms should have been present before your child turned 7.
This is the child that gets labeled as lazy, spacey, ditzy or incompetent. His teacher may groan in frustration at how he daydreams and tunes out during class. She may come home with her sweater buttoned wrong, inside out or forgotten altogether. He may leave his glove at Little League—every single practice. Parents may have to deal with the terror of waiting at the bus stop for a child who doesn't show up because he got on the wrong school bus and didn't notice till it drove away. A child may lose friends because she forgets she was invited for a play date or walks right past playmates without seeing them because her mind is elsewhere.
A child must have had 6 of the following 9 symptoms for more than six months to be diagnosed with ADHD/inattentive type:
- Does not pay close attention to details, makes careless mistakes
- Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish work or chores (because of failure to understand, not defiance)
- Often has trouble organizing activities
- Often avoids or dislikes things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time
- Often loses things needed for tasks and activities
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities