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Recognizing ADHD in Your Child

This article originally published on Get Healthy Stay Healthy.

ADHD (also known as ADD) stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD is a common childhood disorder affecting about 6.4 million children 4 to 17 years of age in the U.S. Children with the condition may have trouble focusing and sitting still; they also tend to act without thinking (act impulsively). These issues may interfere with a child’s home life, school functioning, and social relationships. The condition may continue into adulthood.

ADHD is treatable, and many children diagnosed with ADHD who receive proper treatment can live successful lives. It’s important to get an evaluation by a healthcare provider to confirm a proper diagnosis, so you can work together as a team to implement a treatment plan that’s right for your child and family.

What Should You Look For?
Of course, many children have occasional trouble sitting still, paying attention, and behaving. In addition, these behaviors change over time as the child develops. So, how can you tell if your child’s behavior may be related to ADHD?

Symptoms and behaviors of the condition are present over a long period of time and occur in at least two different settings, such as home and school. Most importantly, the behaviors are developmentally inappropriate for the child’s age and create a negative impact on the child’s ability to function academically, socially, and within the family.

There are certain behaviors to look for in your child, which may include some of the following:

  • Has frequent difficulty paying close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • Is unable to sustain his or her attention on tasks or play activities
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, gets sidetracked)
  • Has trouble organizing his or her activities (e.g., doing things in order)
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • Often fidgets with hands or feet, or squirms in seat excessively when sitting still is expected
  • Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected (e.g., school, church, dinner time)
  • Excessively runs around or climbs when it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless)
  • Is unable to play or do leisure activities quietly
  • Is often "on the go" or acts as if "driven by a motor"
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been finished, interrupts others, or intrudes
  • Has trouble waiting his or her turn and/or is very impatient

Note that ADHD symptoms may change as your child grows and develops. For example, young children may show more signs of hyperactive and impulsive behavior. However, as the child enters into elementary school age, he or she may struggle more with paying attention and getting distracted easily. With teens, they may experience special challenges related to social stresses including emerging sexuality, establishing independence, and peer pressure. In addition, girls are more prone to eating disorders. So be sure to consult a trained healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis and to determine a management plan that works for a child with ADHD.

What's Next?
If you notice potential signs and symptoms of ADHD in your child, speak to your pediatrician or mental health specialist trained in diagnosing the condition. He or she can help assess if your child has ADHD. To make a diagnosis, a trained professional will collect information from you and your child’s teachers to confirm your child’s behavior in different settings. A process will then be put in place to assess and track the ADHD symptoms. Treatment usually includes medication and therapy (such as behavioral therapy).

If you have a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, stay positive! Keep in mind that it is possible to successfully manage the condition. Most importantly, educate yourself about ADHD, and work closely with your healthcare provider and child’s teachers to help your child have a successful outcome. Also, there are steps you can take to obtain support as a caregiver.

Medically reviewed by Donna Palumbo, PhD, Clinical Sciences Director at Pfizer.

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  • 1. National Resource Center on ADHD. About ADHD. Accessed August 30, 2016.
  • 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data and statistics. Accessed September 6, 2016.
  • 3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Checklist: Signs and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Accessed August 30, 2016.
  • 4. National Institute of Mental Health. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Accessed September 6, 2016.
  • 5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms and diagnosis. Accessed August 30, 2016.
  • 6. National Institute of Mental Health. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Accessed September 6, 2016.