It is developmentally appropriate for your child to have periods of being hyper, and to not want to pay attention to activities that they find boring. That’s just part of being a child, but sometimes there's more to it.
Many parents miss the signs of ADHD and hyperactivity in their child because they pass off this behavior as them being a “difficult child” and don't think about their mental health. The good news is, your child probably isn’t a “lazy troublemaker”, as the school so condescendingly called my brother his entire life.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a mental health disorder that affects an estimated 5% of the population. Symptoms include difficulty paying attention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity.
What are the signs of ADHD in children?
There are two types of ADHD: inattentive and hyperactive. We expect most children to have shorter attention spans as toddlers and very young children. Once a child is about four or five, most children are able to pay attention to others and sit quietly for short periods of time. It’s around this age that it is easier to tell which children are exhibiting signs of ADHD.
Many ADHD symptoms are noticeable before the age of 6, but are often looked past as age-appropriate behaviors or just a “phase”.
ADHD symptoms will occur in more than one situation. This means they may show up at school and at home, or at home and at church. That doesn't mean the symptoms are always there, but often they are.
There is a common misconception with inattentiveness. A child with ADHD will not have a problem sitting still and paying attention when the task or activity is something that they really love and enjoy. It is when they find the task at hand to be boring or unenjoyable that they will struggle to pay attention.
Another common “problem” among inattentive children with ADHD is that they can’t stay on task. For example, homework is an area that many children who exhibit inattentiveness struggle with.
Some symptoms of inattentiveness include:
-Has trouble staying focused
-Frequently loses or misplaces toys, homework, books, etc.
-Has trouble staying organized
-Appears to not listen when they are spoken to
Signs of impulsiveness:
The next sign of ADHD to watch for is impulsiveness. This can often cause problems with self control, since they tend to censor themselves less than other children their age. They will often interrupt conversations, invade others' personal space, and ask overly personal questions.
If your child has ADHD, they may also be moody and overly emotional, at least, more than you think may be appropriate for their situation.
A few symptoms of impulsiveness are:
-Acting without thinking
-Inability to control powerful emotions
-Intruding on others conversations or activities
Signs of hyperactivity
Hyperactivity is the most obvious sign that your child has ADHD. Many children with hyperactivity seem to never stop moving. They may try to do too many things at once, bouncing from one activity to the next, and never fully finishing the one that they were doing before moving on, or moving back to a previous activity that they never finished.
This hyperactivity can be absolutely exhausting. Even when sitting still, these children are still moving. Tapping their fingers, fidgeting with their feet, or squirming in their chair.
A few other symptoms include:
-A quick temper
-Constantly moving, and often running and climbing up things that they shouldn’t
-Difficulty sitting still or playing quietly
-Constantly fidgeting or squirming
So, is it ADHD?
If you suspect that your child has ADHD, the first step is to bring them into see their pediatrician. Just because your child exhibits some of the symptoms of ADHD, doesn’t mean that they have ADHD. Avoid diagnosing your child via Google.
Some medical conditions, physiological disorders, and stressful or traumatic life events can look a lot like ADHD, so it is best to bring your child to a specialist to have them diagnosed.
Meeting with a qualified professional will help you rule out other mental disorders, stressful life events, medical conditions, and other behavioral issues, so that you can move forward to the most accurate diagnosis.
This is the first post I've written on this blog about ADHD. I will be following up with a series on ADHD resources in the Fall of 2021.