Are you concerned that your child has ADHD? Many parents are, especially if they think their child has ADHD-related symptoms, such as impulsive behavior, forgetfulness, or difficulty concentrating.
But just because a child constantly runs around, refuses to do what you say, or has a room that looks like a tornado tore through it doesn’t mean attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the cause.
ADHD: Is It or Isn't It?
While it’s possible your child’s behavior is due to ADHD, it may also be due to:
- Normal growth and development
- Another medical condition (such as a thyroid imbalance)
- Simple immaturity
There are many situations during which children behave erratically, such as after a recent move or when a new baby joins the family.
The Three Subtypes of ADHD
Before you start thinking about ADHD as a possible explanation, it’s helpful to know that there are three types of ADHD and each has a specific set of symptoms.
The subtypes of ADHD are:
- Inattentive subtype
- Hyperactive-impulsive type
- Combined type
Symptoms of ADHD: Inattentive Type
Children with this diagnosis are usually not hyperactive and, in fact, may even move in a slow, sluggish manner. They may sit quietly and look like they are daydreaming. Symptoms of inattentive ADHD include:
- Being distracted very easily
- Regularly losing things like pencils, homework
- Not paying attention to details
- Making careless mistakes
- Not following instructions
- Tendency to start one activity before finishing another
- Difficulty understanding information as quickly as other children
- Finding it hard to be organized
Symptoms of ADHD : Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
Children with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD tend to fit the more stereotypical idea of ADHD in popular culture: overactive, distracted, and lacking some social skills. Symptoms of the hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD are:
- Restless behavior with a frequent desire to run around
- Being impatient and fidgety
- Being unable to stay seated when appropriate, for example in the classroom or during family meals
- Talking nonstop and sometimes blurting out things
- Finding it hard to wait in line and take turns
Symptoms of ADHD : Combined Type
Children with the combined type of ADHD usually show a mixture of both the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms listed above.
ADHD: What to Look for
If you’re concerned that your child may have ADHD, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you consider the following questions:
- Is your child paying attention to details, or rushing through homework and making careless mistakes?
- Do you think your child listens to you most of the time?
- Does your child find it hard to organize activities?
- Does your child avoid tasks that require thinking?
- Does your child just refuse to do what you ask?
ADHD: Symptoms Don’t Equal a Diagnosis
If you see these kinds of behaviors in your child once in a while, there’s probably no need for concern. For a child to be diagnosed with ADHD, your pediatrician will look for some other telltale signs. These signs will begin early in a child’s life, sometimes even during the preschool years.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the diagnosis of ADHD requires, among other things:
- Symptoms must begin before the age of 7 and last longer than six months.
- Your child’s symptoms have to happen more often than in other children of the same age.
- The behaviors don’t occur only at home. They need to appear in other situations as well, such as while the child is at school or playing with friends.
- The symptoms must compromise the child’s school performance and ability to interact with others in social situations.
As a parent, it's understandable to worry when your child behaves poorly, but don't jump to conclusions that your child has ADHD. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician about your concerns before deciding on your own diagnosis.