What are the symptoms of ADHD?

Tamsin - posted on 12/15/2010 ( 9 moms have responded )




Hi all. I know the basics, but I need a really concise list of symptoms. I had thought that kids with ADHD were constantly on the go and could never focus on anything for long. My son is so incredible active, argumentative, demanding and restless, he can however, concentrate on things when he wants to, like the X-box or Playstation or a movie etc. I know it is not lack of discipline or other psychological condition. I get an opinion from EVERYONE that it is either psychological or ADHD. Ahhhhh! Tearing my hair out. Please can someone give me a clear idea of the symptoms. I am so confused. Thank you!!


Jennifer - posted on 12/27/2010




Hi there,

It is important to remember that children with ADHD are like snowflakes...there are no 2 kids that have the same symptoms. It is so different for everyone which is why it's so difficult. The other thing we were told to think about when dealing with our son is that we needed to understand that their brains really are about 2 -3 years behind what their age really is for the majority of the time. Remembering that has helped in how we handle and discipline him when we need to.

Here is some fantastic information on ADHD from a Caddac (Centre for ADHD/ADD Advocacy, Canada):

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD?
People with ADHD have brains that may function a little differently in some ways. The flow of signals in their brains may not work as smoothly or as fast. Some people with ADHD complain that their brain seems to work too fast for them to stay focused on one thing at a time. Having ADHD does not mean that these people are not as smart as everyone else. It just means that they may need a little help paying attention, just like someone who wear glasses needs help to see better.

Types of ADHD
The names of these types describe the kinds of symptoms the person has. Children with the 'combined sub-type', which is the most common, have all three of the main symptoms of ADHD. They would have problems with attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

The second type of ADHD is the 'inattentive type'. This means the person only has problems with their attention and they are not hyperactive. The last type is called 'hyperactive impulsive type'. A person who has this type of ADHD would have problems with staying still and doing things without thinking. This last type is very rare.

Symptoms of ADHD Attention
The most common problem children with ADHD have is paying attention in class and getting their work done. They may also have problems shifting or stopping what they are thinking about if they are doing something they find very interesting like playing a computer game. The interesting thing about kids with ADHD is that if something interests them a great deal they can pay attention quite well. They can even over-focus, or pay attention so much that they don't hear or see anything else around them. They may not hear teachers and parents who are telling them something that they need to do. ADHD is not just a problem with paying attention, it is a problem with regulating. They have trouble paying too little or too much attention.

Some kids with ADHD also find it hard to sit or stand still for a period of time. They may need to move around a great deal or squirm and wiggle. This is called hyperactivity. Doctors think that the constant movement helps children with ADHD stay awake and pay attention.

Some kids complain that they are not able to stop and think things through before they do them. This is called impulsivity. Doctors think that some children may not be able to think about the consequences before they do things. They do whatever pops into their head before they can stop themselves. Often after they have done something they realize that it was not a good idea. This can get them into trouble sometimes. Children can learn ways to slow down their thinking so that they can decide if what they are thinking about is a good idea or not.

How Does ADHD Affect kids?
ADHD can affect kids in many ways. Not all kids with ADHD show it in the same way or have all of the symptoms. They may also have others symptoms that are not mentioned here. Kids with ADHD are all different and it is the job of doctors, teachers and parents to help them find out how ADHD affects them. They need to know what they are good at, and what they have trouble with. This will help them learn how to use their strengths to deal with things they may have trouble with.

Paying Attention
Some kids with ADHD say their brain is always moving very fast from one thing to another, sort of like a remote switching channels on a TV very quickly. Other kids may find that they daydream instead of concentrating on what the teacher is saying even if they are trying their hardest to pay attention. This can be very frustrating for them, especially if they don't know why it is happening.

Getting Distracted
This means that you may start to do something and then your mind thinks or sees something else that catches its attention and you forget what you were doing. Kids with ADHD are distracted by noises that do not bother other kids. Small noises like a scraping chair or someone walking by in the hallway, may be all that it takes to distract a student with ADHD from being able to listen to the teacher. People who do not understand ADHD may accuse the child of not listening on purpose.

Getting Work Done
Having ADHD does not mean that you don't know as much as the other kids, but many kids with ADHD have a hard time showing people how much they actually do know. Since it is harder for them to stick with things, it often takes them a long time to get things done. Homework may be especially difficult. Getting started on your work may be difficult and you may need help from your teachers or parents.

Printing and Writing
Often children with ADHD have a hard time to printing and writing neatly. They may forget to leave a space between words, to stay on the line or how to form the letters. It may even be hard for them to hold a pencil properly. Some kids complain that their hands are very tired and hurt after printing for just a short time. Printing and writing can be very slow going for many kids with ADHD and it will take them a long time to copy things from the board or write things in their journal. Writing can be very frustrating for kids with ADHD since their minds might be speeding along and their hand is going much slower. This is why they may not want to write very much. It is not that they are not trying. Many kids change back to printing when they get older since they find cursive writing difficult to do. The best thing to do is to learn how to keyboard as early as you can. By using a computer you will be able to type as fast as you think.

Putting things off that you need to do is often a big problem for kids with ADHD, especially as they get older and have more and more things they need to get done. This seems to become more of a problem if the school assignment is big, like a project or essay. Kids with ADHD can find these overwhelming and may need help to break it down into smaller pieces. If this is a problem for you, it might be a good idea to come up with some strategies to help you stop putting things off.

Losing Things
Kids with ADHD often lose things because they have trouble remembering where they put them. This may be because they become distracted or they have problems with short- term memory. They may even forget when they have to get things done.

Trouble Falling Asleep
You might have a hard time falling asleep at night. People with ADHD often find it hard to turn off the motor in their mind so that they can relax enough to fall asleep. Kids with ADHD also may find it difficult to get up in the morning. There are strategies or tricks that can help with this.
Things to try that may help you fall asleep:

* Listening to music
* Listening to a taped story or having your parents read to you
* Reading a book
* Make the room dark
* Don't play video games or watch TV right before bed
* Get lots of exercise during the day, but not right before bed
* Go to bed at the same time every day
* Eat and drink things like: turkey, milk products, peanut butter, rice, soy products, tuna and beans about an hour before you go to bed

This means that you need to move around more than other kids. You probably find it difficult to sit still and not run around. Not touching things constantly or being able to stop fidgeting and squirming may also be a problem for you. Kids with ADHD hate to hear the word 'stop' because moving around may actually help them to concentrate. The problem is that other people do not know this and can find it very annoying.

Being impulsive is when you do things without being able to slow yourself down enough and think before you do them. Kids with ADHD may realize only after they have done something that it was the wrong thing to do. It is not that they don't know what is right and wrong or that they don't know what the rules are. They simply can't slow themselves down enough to think about the rules before it is too late. This can get them into a lot of trouble if people around them don't understand. ADHD does not give kids an excuse to do bad things, but they need people to help them learn how to slow down and remember the right thing to do.

Getting Angry
When all of these things are happening kids usually get frustrated, especially if they don't know why it is happening. When kids with ADHD get frustrated, sometimes they get very angry and don't know how to deal with it. They may yell and do things that they don't mean to do. ADHD may make it harder for kids to control their feelings, but ADHD should never be an excuse for hurting other people. Again, there are many things that you can learn to do that will help you deal with your frustration.

How did I get ADHD?
Most of the time, ADHD is something that you are born with. It is passed down to you through your genes from your parents. You don't catch ADHD like you catch a cold or the flu. Not always, but very often one or both of your parents may have ADHD too. Your brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents may have ADHD as well. About 6 to 12 people in every 100 people throughout the whole world have ADHD, so we know that ADHD is not caused by watching too much TV, eating too much sugar or playing too many computer games. These things may not be good for you for other reasons, but they do not cause ADHD.

Good luck!!!

Sonya - posted on 12/23/2010




ADD / ADHD in Children

It’s normal for children to occasionally forget their homework, daydream during class, act without thinking, or get fidgety at the dinner table. But inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity are also signs of attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD). ADD/ADHD can lead to problems at home and school, and affect your child’s ability to learn and get along with others. It’s important for you to be able to spot the signs and symptoms, and get help if you see them in your child.
What is ADD/ADHD?
Signs and symptoms
Positive effects of ADD/ADHD
Helping your child
Related links

What is ADD / ADHD?
We all know kids who can’t sit still, who never seem to listen, who don’t follow instructions no matter how clearly you present them, or who blurt out inappropriate comments at inappropriate times. Sometimes these children are labeled as troublemakers, or criticized for being lazy and undisciplined. However, they may have ADD/ADHD.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that appears in early childhood. You may know it by the name attention deficit disorder, or ADD. ADD/ADHD makes it difficult for people to inhibit their spontaneous responses—responses that can involve everything from movement to speech and attentiveness.

The signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD typically appear before the age of seven. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between attention deficit disorder and normal “kid behavior.” If you spot just a few signs, or the symptoms appear only in some situations, it’s probably not ADD/ADHD. On the other hand, if your child shows a number of ADD/ADHD signs and symptoms that are present across all situations¾at home, at school, and at play¾it’s time to take a closer look. Once you understand the issues your child is struggling with, such as forgetfulness or difficulty paying attention in school, you can work together to find creative solutions and capitalize on strengths. The bottom line: you don’t have to wait for a diagnosis or rely on a medical professional to help your child.

Myths about Attention Deficit Disorder
Myth #1: All kids with ADD/ADHD are hyperactive.
Some children with ADD/ADHD are hyperactive, but many others with attention problems are not. Children with ADD/ADHD who are inattentive, but not overly active, may appear to be spacey and unmotivated.
Myth #2: Kids with ADD/ADHD can never pay attention.
Children with ADD/ADHD are often able to concentrate on activities they enjoy. But no matter how hard they try, they have trouble maintaining focus when the task at hand is boring or repetitive.
Myth #3: Kids with ADD/ADHD choose to be difficult and could behave better if they wanted to.
Children with ADD/ADHD may do their best to be good, but still be unable to sit still, stay quiet, or pay attention. They may appear disobedient, but that doesn’t mean they’re acting out on purpose.
Myth #4: Kids will eventually grow out of ADD/ADHD.
ADD/ADHD often continues into adulthood, so don’t wait for your child to outgrow the problem. Treatment can help your child learn to manage and minimize the symptoms.
Myth #5: Medication is the best treatment option for ADD/ADHD.
Medication is often prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder, but it might not be the best option for your child. Effective treatment for ADD/ADHD also includes education, behavior therapy, support at home and school, exercise, and proper nutrition.
Signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD
When many people think of attention deficit disorder, they picture an out-of-control kid in constant motion, bouncing off the walls and disrupting everyone around. But this is not the only possible picture. Some children with ADD/ADHD are hyperactive, while others sit quietly—with their attention miles away. Some put too much focus on a task and have trouble shifting it to something else. Others are only mildly inattentive, but overly impulsive.

The three primary characteristics of ADD/ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The signs and symptoms a child with attention deficit disorder has depends on which characteristics predominate. Children with ADD/ADHD may be:

Which one of these children may have ADD/ADHD?
The hyperactive boy who talks nonstop and can’t sit still.
The quiet dreamer who sits at her desk and stares off into space.
Both A and B
The correct answer is “C.”
Inattentive, but not hyperactive or impulsive.
Hyperactive and impulsive, but able to pay attention.
Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive (the most common form of ADHD).
Children who only have inattentive symptoms of ADD/ADHD are often overlooked, since they’re not disruptive. However, the symptoms of inattention have consequences: getting in hot water with parents and teachers for not following directions; underperforming in school; or clashing with other kids over not playing by the rules.

Inattentive signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD
Symptoms of inattention in children:
Doesn’t pay attention to details or makes careless mistakes
Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
Appears not to listen when spoken to
Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items
Children with ADD/ADHD can pay attention when they’re doing things they enjoy or hearing about topics they enjoy. But when the task is repetitive or boring, they quickly tune out.

Not paying close enough attention is another common problem. Children with ADD/ADHD often bounce from task to task without completing any of them, or skip necessary steps in procedures. Organizing their schoolwork and their time is harder for them than it is for most children. Kids with ADD/ADHD also have trouble concentrating if there are things going on around them; they usually need a calm, quiet environment in order to sustain attention.

Hyperactive signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD
Symptoms of hyperactivity in children:
Constantly fidgets and squirms
Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
Moves around constantly, often running or climbing inappropriately
Talks excessively, has difficulty playing quietly
Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
The most obvious sign of ADD/ADHD is hyperactivity. While many children are naturally quite active, kids with hyperactive symptoms of attention deficit disorder are always moving.

They may try to do several things at once, bouncing around from one activity to the next. Even when forced to sit still – which can be very difficult for them – their foot is tapping, their leg is shaking, or their fingers are drumming.

Impulsivity signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD
Symptoms of impulsivity in children:
Blurts out answers without waiting to be called on hear the whole question
Has difficulty waiting for his or her turn
Often interrupts others
Intrudes on other people’s conversations or games
Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums
The impulsivity of children with ADD/ADHD can cause problems with self-control. Because they censor themselves less than other kids do, they’ll interrupt conversations, invade other people’s space, ask irrelevant questions in class, make tactless observations, and ask overly personal questions.

Children with impulsive signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD also tend to be moody and to overreact emotionally. As a result, others may start to view the child as disrespectful, weird, or needy.

Positive effects of ADD & ADHD in children
In addition to the challenges, there are also positive traits associated with people who have attention deficit disorder:

Creativity – Children who have ADD/ADHD can be marvelously creative and imaginative. The child who daydreams and has ten different thoughts at once can become a master problem-solver, a fountain of ideas, or an inventive artist. Children with ADD may be easily distracted, but sometimes they notice what others don’t see.
Flexibility – Because children with ADD/ADHD consider a lot of options at once, they don’t become set on one alternative early on and are more open to different ideas.
Enthusiasm and spontaneity – Children with ADD/ADHD are rarely boring! They’re interested in a lot of different things and have lively personalities. In short, if they’re not exasperating you (and sometimes even when they are), they’re a lot of fun to be with.
Energy and drive – When kids with ADD/ADHD are motivated, they work or play hard and strive to succeed. It actually may be difficult to distract them from a task that interests them, especially if the activity is interactive or hands-on.
Keep in mind, too, that ADD/ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence or talent. Many children with ADD/ADHD are intellectually or artistically gifted.

Helping a child with ADD / ADHD
Whether or not your child’s symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity are due to ADD/ADHD, they can cause many problems if left untreated. Children who can’t focus and control themselves may struggle in school, get into frequent trouble, and find it hard to get along with others or make friends. These frustrations and difficulties can lead to low self-esteem – as well as friction and stress for the whole family.

But treatment can make a dramatic difference in your child’s symptoms. With the right support, your child can get on track for success in all areas of life.

Parenting tips for children with ADD / ADHD
If your child is hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive, it may take a lot of energy to get him or her to listen, finish a task, or sit still. The constant monitoring can be frustrating and exhausting. Sometimes you may feel like your child is running the show. But there are steps you can take to regain control of the situation, while simultaneously helping your child make the most of his or her abilities.

While attention deficit disorder is not caused by bad parenting, there are effective parenting strategies that can go a long way to correct problem behaviors. Children with ADD/ADHD need structure, consistency, clear communication, and rewards and consequences for their behavior. They also need lots of love, support, and encouragement.

There are many things parents can do to reduce the signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD – without sacrificing the natural energy, playfulness, and sense of wonder unique in every child.

Read Parenting a child with ADD / ADHD
School tips for children with ADD / ADHD
Think of what the school setting requires children to do: Sit still. Listen quietly. Pay attention. Follow instructions. Concentrate. These are the very things kids with ADD/ADHD have a hard time doing—not because they aren’t willing, but because their brains won’t let them.

But that doesn’t mean kids with ADD/ADHD can’t succeed at school. There are many things both parents and teachers can do to help children with ADD/ADHD thrive in the classroom. It starts with evaluating each child’s individual weaknesses and strengths, then coming up with creative strategies for helping the child focus, stay on task, and learn to his or her full capability.

Read ADD/ADHD and School
Treatment for ADD / ADHD
If your child struggles with ADD/ADHD-like symptoms, don’t wait to seek professional help. You can treat your child’s symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity without having a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. Options to start with include getting your child into therapy, implementing a better diet and exercise plan, and modifying the home environment to minimize distractions.

If you do receive a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, you can then work with your child’s doctor, therapist, and school to make a personalized treatment plan that meets his or her specific needs. Effective treatment for childhood ADD/ADHD involves behavioral therapy, parent education and training, social support, and assistance at school. Medication may also be used, however, it should never be the sole attention deficit disorder treatment.

Read ADD/ADHD Treatment
Related articles
ADD/ADHD Parenting Tips
Helping Children with Attention Deficit Disorder
ADD/ADHD in School
Helping Children with ADHD Succeed at School
More Helpguide articles

ADD/ADHD Medications: Are ADHD Drugs Right for You or Your Child?
ADD/ADHD Treatment: Finding Treatments That Work for Children and Adults
ADD/ADHD Tests and Diagnosis: Diagnosing ADHD in Children and Adults
Related links for ADD / ADHD in children
General information about ADD / ADHD in children
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – Guide to ADD/ADHD, including how to tell if a child has attention deficit disorder and tips for parents. (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (PDF) – Learn about the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment of attention deficit disorder. (National Institute of Mental Health)

ADHD: What Parents Should Know - Includes signs, symptoms and treatment of attention deficit disorder, or ADD/ADHD, in children (Family Doctor)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Parent’s Guide to ADHD (PDF) – Introduction to ADD/ADHD, written for parents. Covers causes, symptoms, and treatments. (Montana State University)

Signs and symptoms ADD / ADHD in children
ADHD: What are the Signs? – Detailed look at the signs and symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity in children with ADD/ADHD. (Family Education Network)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – Describes the signs, symptoms, and diagnosis of ADD/ADHD in children. (University of Maryland Medical Center)

Signs and symptoms of ADD / ADHD in teens
ADHD – A clear, simple, teen-oriented article about attention deficit disorder, including information about signs and symptoms in teenagers, ADD/ADHD and driving, and treatment. (KidsHealth.org)

Melinda Smith, M.A., Ellen Jaffe-Gill, and Robert Segal, M.A., contributed to this article. Last reviewed: January 2010.

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Phyllis - posted on 12/17/2010




Kids with ADHD can quite often concentrate for long periods on things like TV, movies, video games. These things allow them to 'zone' out and kind of go on auto pilot for awhile. I think it sorta give the brain a rest, as most of these things don't require concentration so much as they are hypnotic, I think. He sounds like he may be a good candidate for an evaluation, and often ODD comes with ADHD, so don't be surprised if there is a split diagnosis.

Melissa - posted on 12/19/2011




all children are different but mine would get out of control and throw huge fits about things but she could sit and watch a movie but she always had to move her fingers or foot or something she was never actually not moving and now she sits and watches tv and still has to move every now and then but it has changed so much since she started taking medication.. i said i wouldnt medicate my child because a cousin of mine was on medication adn was a zombie but i later found from my daughters doctor that if they are that way it means they either do not need the medication or they had been put on a dose that was too high so every child is different keep this in mind for sure... good luck to you i know this is difficult but hope it woks out for you

Gloria - posted on 12/23/2010




From personal knowledge, there are many stages and levels. Short attention span, not following instruction. I can relate to the start something don't finish bit. My son gets things stuck in his head and will repeat himself. He has anxiety and he's very sensitive to negative remarks. When a child is a teen they grow out of some his disorder. His temper has excalated these past few months and its not easy dealing with it. My son was tested thru a pyschologist and qualified for ssi. My son choses the wrong people to be his friend, and talkin to him isn't easy. If he can sit and watch tv for a long period of time without getting up then he's fine. My son rather hide under his blanket than watch tv. He walks all over the place and can't sit still. Attention defecit disorder is someone who does things for attention. Sometimes it could be good or bad. My son doesn't make eye contact so he tends to ignore me when I tell him something. He tends to lie alot and that itself annoys me. Depression, loneliness, anxiety, ansy, nervousness are some signs. Google does have alot of information. Concerta worked for my son. The other meds didn't do anything. I wish you the best of luck and Merry Christmas. As a single parent, its not an easy job.


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Kim - posted on 12/23/2010




most kids really can't stay still if they are not doing something that interests them. sometimes they diagnos them as ODD...sooooooo different from ADHD. my 10 yr old son is ADHD. he is argumentative, mean or angry sometimes, lacks some social skills due to restlessness, couldn't focus in school. after a year of crazyness in my home and school we finally decided to put him on meds....concerta...and thank god. He still has his moments but overall things have improved. he has been on meds for 4 years and now needs a change. We only use meds for school, never in the summer or on breaks unless we need him to be focus. good luck.
ODD is very different, don't get the two confused...do your research and decide what will be best for your child.

Shari - posted on 12/23/2010




my son is adhd. He can concentrate on anything that he wants to! He can play video games for hours with no problem. He can also play with legos for quite sometime! However besides that he is also in constant motion. He is always figidity with something if he is not moving! Even to eat a meal, he has to be doing something else...He is also argumentive and demanding...but there is also another disorder called odd! He has not been diagnosed officially with this, but sometimes i think it is part of it! I was very concerned for quite a few years about what to do about it! And i swore i would never, ever, ever put my son on any medication..Now 2 years later after being on medication for adhd I look back and think i should of not worried so much. He is able to focus so much much better on everything. Thankgod for medication...it has helped him tremendously!

Tere-Teresa - posted on 12/22/2010




try this book:::

Delivered from Distraction
and do what your heart tells you to do.
dont listen to other parents or people who dont really understand. this is your child.

I have the same son and issues. I get it.
He is now 15.

Opinions dont count, only informative ideas and decisions, this book will help you come to your own decisions for your child and your situation.

take care and God Bless!
Merry Christmas!

Lika - posted on 12/22/2010




The focus on certain things usually come from initiative, such as the X-box, or if he has other interests. Topics of little interest will hold focus that much less, and probably is in relation to how interested he is. Here is a link that may provide helpful to you for the list and other information - http://health.yahoo.net/channel/add-adhd...

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