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ADHD: Symptoms

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. However, in 2011 the American Academy of Pediatrics expanded the age range of diagnostic guidelines to include kids as young as 4 and up to age 18.

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.

ADHD/Inattentive Type

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:

  1. Does not pay close attention to details, makes careless mistakes
  2. Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks
  3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  4. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish work or chores (because of failure to understand, not defiance)
  5. Often has trouble organizing activities
  6. Often avoids or dislikes things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time.
  7. Often loses things needed for tasks and activities
  8. Is often easily distracted
  9. Is often forgetful in daily activities

ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive Type

Only about 5% of kids who have ADHD are classified as this type, which is typically diagnosed at preschool age. Most of those diagnosed will later go on to develop the inattentive or combined type.

People think of hyperactive and impulsive kids as wild, obnoxious, bratty problem children or, worst of all, just plain bad. She may grab toys and refuse to share long after others have gotten the concept. A hyperactive child will keep playing tag while his classmates line up. He may frighten or intimidate other children by pushing or yelling, or he could be the loveable, but virtually untamable class clown. Hyperactive kids are often daredevils, prone to taking flying leaps off the couch. Parents of hyperactive and impulsive kids dread calls from school or a neighbor asking them to come get their misbehaving child, and they’re driven to exhaustion by kids that never nap, sit still or stop talking.

A child must have 6 of the following 9 symptoms for more than six months to be diagnosed with ADHD/hyperactive-impulsive type:

  1. Often fidgets with hands and feet or squirms in seat
  2. Often gets up from seat
  3. Often excessively runs about our climbs when not appropriate
  4. Often has trouble playing or doing leisure activities quietly
  5. Is on the go as if driven by a motor
  6. Often talks excessively
  7. Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished
  8. Often has trouble waiting his turn
  9. Often interrupts or intrudes on others

ADHD Combined Hyperactive-impulsive and Inattentive Type

This is the most common type of ADHD, with symptoms of both the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types. Remember, not all children with ADHD display all the symptoms.

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.

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