Could My Child Have ADHD?

It’s normal for kids to fidget, get overly excited, or do things without thinking about what will happen later. But these things can also be signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Only your doctor can say for sure whether your child has it. Your answers to these questions will help you decide whether you should call the pediatrician.

Has Their Teacher Ever Complained?

It’s hard to know if your child is more distracted, wiggly, or forgetful than other kids (they’re all a little like that once in a while!). That’s why teachers are often a good gauge. They see them in different situations than you do, and they can compare them to other kids. So pay attention if a teacher tells you that your child can’t seem to follow the rules, is more disruptive than others, or has a harder time focusing than their friends.

Do They Play Well with Other Kids?

Kids with ADHD can have a hard time getting along with others because they can’t read people’s feelings and moods. Friends might get mad at them, or get their feelings hurt, because they may act without thinking.

Are They a Daydreamer?

One kind of ADHD is the “hyperactive-impulsive” type. If your child has this, they’ll squirm, fidget, talk a lot, and have a hard time waiting (for their turn, or anything else!). But if they have the “inattentive” type of ADHD, they’ll daydream a lot, may be too wrapped up in their own thoughts to hear you, and often seem like they can’t focus. Because they are so quiet, neither you nor their teachers may ever realize they have ADHD.

Do You Wonder if They Are Deaf?

If your child doesn’t respond when you talk to them or even seem to notice you’re there, you might wonder if they are hard of hearing. Or if they are simply ignoring you. The truth is, if they have the inattentive type of ADHD, they may be so distracted they just don’t realize you’re talking to them.

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What Else Is Going On?

Did the behaviors you’re concerned about just pop up recently? Your child could just be shaken up because of a big life change, like a divorce, job loss, or death in the family. Medical problems, like serious ear infections, depression, or anxiety can cause ADHD-like symptoms, too. Other learning issues like dyslexia can also look like ADHD.

When Did You First Notice Something Strange?

Symptoms of ADHD usually show up when kids are young -- around age 12 on average. But they can show up much earlier. Some kids have been diagnosed by age 3.

Finding Out for Sure

There’s no single test for ADHD. Your child’s pediatrician will want to know their symptoms and when they started. They may also want to do some tests to rule out other health problems that could change the way your child acts. They might also want to send your child to a children’s mental health specialist, like a child psychologist or psychiatrist, for a more detailed checkup. These doctors may ask to speak to other adults in your child’s life, like coaches or teachers. Only then -- if your child meets the criteria for ADHD -- will they be officially diagnosed.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on January 16, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Mental Health: “Attention Hyperactivity Disorder.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Early Warning Signs of ADHD.”

The National Resource on ADHD: “For Parents & Caregivers.”

American Psychological Association: “ADHD Among Preschoolers.”

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