Most kids are naturally energetic. As they grow and learn about the world, they become increasingly inquisitive and emotional, and these feelings can manifest in unhealthy ways at times, such as distraction, interruption and temper tantrums.
But a child’s natural curiosity and excitement should not be mistaken for more serious problems like hyperactivity. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that seriously affects your kid's attention span, and some parents might miss the serious warning sign - instead writing off their child’s behavior as a “phase.”
Here’s what you should know and how to help.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodegenerative disorder that hampers one’s ability to concentrate on tasks and social interactions. In children, ADHD typically interferes with schoolwork, resulting in poor performance.
While many people are familiar with attention deficit disorder (ADD), they might not understand ADHD completely or may conflate the two mistakenly. While both disorders affect one’s ability to concentrate (attention deficit), ADHD also comes with hyperactivity.
Hyperactivity is what may make parents think their child is just being a kid or displaying “naughty” behavior by acting rambunctious and disruptive. But children with ADHD can’t help their hyperactivity—the disorder makes them fidget and fuss and otherwise not be able to sit still.
Signs of ADHD in children
One unfortunate aspect of ADHD is that its symptoms can often be missed in children. It can be very difficult for parents to discern whether their child has ADHD or is simply bad at following directions, has a lot of energy or is blatantly not listening to them or their teachers.
The following are some of the most common signs of ADHD in kids.
- Inattentiveness: Children who have ADHD are likely to zone out or stop paying attention to things like someone else speaking, movies or lessons. They are typically unable to relay information back to someone who was just speaking with them.
- Poor academic performance: One of the key signs of ADHD in children is poor performance in school. Because ADHD affects the child’s ability to concentrate on lessons and stay focused on things like projects and homework, they may not understand key components of subjects and get bad grades on tests and assignments.
- Fidgeting: A constant need to play with things in their hands, run around or fidget is very common in children with ADHD. This can also cause children to act rambunctiously during quiet time or relaxed activities.
- Interruption: Children with ADHD tend to display self-focused behavior, which causes them to act on impulse and interrupt social interactions like conversations or gatherings like games.
- Emotional outbursts: ADHD often manifests as temper tantrums or fits of anger, particularly in young children who do not know how to control or identify their emotions.
- Not finishing tasks: ADHD can cause children to begin tasks or projects—even ones they are very passionate about—but then get distracted part of the way through and not finish them.
- Forgetfulness: ADHD can make children prone to forgetting things such as schoolwork or chores. This can also extend to misplacing objects, like frequently forgetting a toy or bag at school.
- Problems prioritizing: Children with ADHD often have trouble staying organized and prioritizing things they need to get done. This many not be evident until the child is older and needs to manage their own list of projects, homework, chores and other activities.
Another important thing to note about ADHD is that symptoms will not only happen in a single setting. For example, your child will not be attentive at home but distracted at school; they will be distracted and fidgety in both situations if ADHD is at play. These types of behavior in single situations may be indicative of another problem like anxiety.
Early diagnosis can set your child up for success
If you begin to notice your child displaying symptoms of ADHD, you’ll want to carefully observe their behavior to watch for other signs. You may even want to discuss your child’s behavior and academic performance with their teachers to discover what symptoms may be occurring when you are not around.
If your child is displaying multiple ADHD symptoms, make an appointment with their doctor to discuss the possibility. They may refer you to a specialist who will ask you and your child questions to reach a diagnosis.
Once a diagnosis has been reached, the specialist may provide you with options on how to manage your child’s disorder. Some children will require medication, while others can manage with behavior therapy and coping skills.
It’s a good idea to discuss your child’s ADHD with their school. Together, you can create a plan and solutions to help your child achieve success.
The earlier you’re able to have your child diagnosed, the faster you can implement a treatment plan and help your child effectively manage their disorder for an easier time at home and at school.