We’ve known that our 11-year-old son, Ian, has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) since he was in third grade. Actually, we knew something was wrong even when he was in preschool. He was having major meltdowns, had no impulse control, was constantly touching things, and couldn’t seem to stop running. He even ran out of his classroom. One time he almost got hit by a bus after he did so; he just wasn’t paying attention.
But no one could diagnose him. It was a very hectic, stressful time...
Each has different symptoms, and they can change with age.
ADHD in Toddlers and Preschoolers
Little kids are an active and unruly bunch. So how can you tell if one has ADHD? Usually, their unruly behavior is extreme.
These kids are "running, jumping, climbing on everything, they can't sit still, they talk all the time," says Steven Cuffe, MD, of the University of Florida Health, Jacksonville. "They're often described as 'on the go' or 'driven by a motor.'"
Russell A. Barkley, PhD, of the Medical University of South Carolina, describes fidgeting and restless behavior: "They simply can't concentrate very long on anything," even a bedtime story.
But some kids with ADHD can focus on things they are interested in, like certain toys or video games.
While you may see warning signs early on, the diagnosis usually comes a little later. A doctor can help you with strategies for parenting.
ADHD in Elementary School Kids
Not all children with ADHD are hyperactive. But if a child is, it will show during the school-age years. You may notice other symptoms, too. He may be unable to focus, and he may have trouble making good decisions or planning things. "What you're seeing is a blossoming of a more and more complex disorder," Barkley says.
He may also have more trouble than other kids his age with:
Letting others talk
Finishing homework or chores
Keeping track of things like homework and books
Also, a child with ADHD can be emotional, Barkley says. If something frustrates him, "you're going to see that frustration come out." If you say you might take him to a movie, he may ask about it nonstop. "If you say no, they're going to blow up."
Because he may act without thinking things through, your child may be accident-prone.
There is no test for ADHD. Many kids have some signs, but for an ADHD diagnosis, several signs need to be present for at least 6 months, and they have to be taking a toll on the child's social life and schoolwork, Cuffe says.
Once you know your child has ADHD, you and your doctor will talk about treatments. They most often include both medication and behavioral therapy. You may need to try different things before you settle on the right treatments.