How young can you diagnose adhd

18 Early Warning Signs of ADHD in Children

Every kid is inattentive or hyperactive at times. When they show a habit of these behaviors, parents play a big part in bringing about positive change.

Posted by The Iowa Clinic on Friday, May 29, 2020

Compared to their parents, most kids appear hyperactive. They’re always on the go. They’re easily distracted. And they have endless amounts of energy.

When parents worry about their kids having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they tend to focus on this hyperactivity. But more attention should be paid to the last word in the  condition: disorder.

ADHD is a chronic illness. More than 60 percent of children who have it carry it with them into adulthood. Early diagnosis can help your child receive the treatment they need and give you the tools to help them manage their condition.

ADHD symptoms are common behaviors seen in all kids.

ADHD is complex. You can’t simply check off a few symptoms from a list and diagnose it. At one point or another, every single child showcases an ADHD symptom. You may see it and think there’s something wrong. But on the whole, they’re exhibiting normal behaviors for a child their age.

Those behaviors are outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and fall into two groups: inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Within each category, there are nine symptoms associated with ADHD.

Signs of Inattention

Attention is half the problem in ADHD. Whether it’s to you or a teacher, at home or at school, kids with ADHD may find it hard to pay attention. And that interferes with their ability to listen, learn and even think. Your child may have trouble:

  1. Paying attention to details or make careless mistakes
  2. Focusing on tasks or at play
  3. Listening when you or a teacher speaks to them directly
  4. Following through on instructions, homework or chores
  5. Organizing tasks or activities
  6. Completing tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time and express their dislike or completely avoid these things
  7. Keeping track of their belongings, like school supplies, glasses or a phone
  8. Remembering things in daily activities
  9. Avoiding distractions

Signs of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

An excitable kid with high energy who acts on their every impulse may fall on the hyperactivity and impulsivity end of the disorder. These behaviors can be more disruptive, especially in school. Your child might:

  1. Fidget, squirm and constantly tap their hands or feet
  2. Get out of their seat in school, church or other situations where they should remain seated
  3. Run and climb in inappropriate places or situations
  4. Be unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly
  5. Have a high motor and always be on the go
  6. Talk excessively
  7. Blurt out answers before questions are completed
  8. Have trouble waiting their turn
  9. Interrupt conversations and games

You may look at these lists and think, “Yeah, that’s my kid.” While in the wrong settings, many of these behaviors are disruptive — even embarrassing — they might be completely normal for your child’s age. For example, many parents start worrying about ADHD in their toddlers. But these symptoms are normal for children at that developmental stage.

The signs can still show up pretty early on though. ADHD can be diagnosed as early as four years old. To be diagnosed between the ages of four and 16, a child must show six or more symptoms for more than six months, with most signs appearing before age 12. And the behaviors have to show up in more than one setting, like at both school and at home, and cause problems in those settings.

Wondering if Your Kid's Behavior is Normal?

Your first call should be to your pediatrician so you can understand when normal turns disruptive. 

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