Several years ago, neurology researcher Robert J. Melillo was preparing a
presentation for a parent-teacher organization on attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and its treatment. He began
to recognize the symptoms he was reading about in his own elementary-school-age
"He was hyperactive and impulsive," recalls Melillo. "His teachers came to
us and said he was having a hard time focusing in school. He was easily
distractible, very energetic, and a risk taker."
How early is too early to tell if your toddler or preschooler might have ADHD?
ADHD can be diagnosed in children as young as 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
But at that age, many kids are active and impulsive. So what are the signs of ADHD? And if your young child is diagnosed with ADHD, what is the treatment?
Melillo -- a chiropractor, author, and PhD candidate -- has since made it
his life's work to better understand ADHD in order to help his own son as well
as the growing number of other children diagnosed with ADHD (previously known
as attention deficit disorder, or ADD).
The symptoms exhibited by his son -- hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors
-- are perhaps the most visible symptoms of a problem that affects an estimated
8%-10% of school-age children. Parents often begin to suspect ADHD when they
receive repeated calls or notes from their child's teacher saying he can't sit
still or be quiet and his behavior is disrupting the class. And, yes, usually
that child is a he.
ADHD Symptoms in Boys and Girls
"Boys are more likely to be diagnosed -- three boys to every girl," says
Marjorie Montague, PhD, professor of special education at the University of
Miami. "No one knows if it is more common in boys or just more likely to be
diagnosed in them. It may just be that boys are referred more commonly by
teachers," says Montague, whose research focuses on learning disabilities and
It may also be, at least partly, because people tend to think of ADHD in
terms of the most well-known symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity --
symptoms more often exhibited in boys. But ADHD in children can also take
other forms, particularly in girls. Forgetfulness, being easily distracted,
losing or misplacing things, disorganization, academic underachievement, poor
follow-through with assignments or tasks, poor concentration, and poor
attention to detail are other ADHD symptoms.
Girls with ADHD may be more likely to be inattentive than hyperactive or
impulsive. That may mean they are more likely to be underdiagnosed with the
If you suspect that your child may have ADHD, it's important to understand
the different forms it may take. There are three types of the disorder, which
are characterized by different symptoms. To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child
must exhibit these symptoms in more than one setting, such as home and
Children -- usually boys -- with the hyperactivity-impulsivity form of ADHD
are extremely active, says Dana Stempil Herzberg, who heads Lexis Preparatory
School, a college-prep school in Scottsdale, Ariz. that focuses on children
with ADHD. "Teachers recognize these kids as fidgety kids, kids that seem to be
driven by a motor, constantly moving, not able to sit," she says.