What are the symptoms of ADHD in children?

We have all had one of these experiences at one time or another.

Perhaps it was at the grocery store, watching frustrated parents call their children’s names repeatedly and implore them to “put that down.” Maybe it was a situation at school with a child who could not seem to sit still and was always in motion.

Maybe we noticed a child who appears always to be daydreaming in class — the student who will not focus on an activity long enough to finish it. Possibly the child is bored with a task, seemingly as soon as it has begun, and wants to move on to something else. We all puzzle over these challenging behaviors.

kids-hyper-running-playingAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has many faces, and remains one of the most talked-about and controversial subjects in education. Hanging in the balance of heated debates over medication, diagnostic methods, and treatment options are children, adolescents, and adults who must manage the condition and lead productive lives on a daily basis.

Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity key behaviors of ADHD

It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often.

To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months, and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

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Children who have symptoms of inattention may:

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty focusing on one thing
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
  • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions.

Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Talk nonstop
  • Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
  • Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
  • Be constantly in motion
  • Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.

Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may:



  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
  • Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
  • Often interrupt conversations or others’ activities.
ADHD can be mistaken for other problems

Parents and teachers can miss the fact that children with symptoms of inattention have ADHD because they are often quiet and less likely to act out. They may sit quietly, seeming to work, but they are often not paying attention to what they are doing. They may get along well with other children, whereas children who have more symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity tend to have social problems.

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But children with the inattentive kind of ADHD are not the only ones whose disorders can be missed. For example, adults may think that children with the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms just have disciplinary problems.



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