>> Child ADD / ADHD
RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS, SYMPTOMS OF CHILD ADD/ADHD
Now and again, every child gets restless or absent-minded.
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 ADD or ADHD. ADD and ADHD can lead to problems
at home and school, and affect your child’s
ability to learn and get along with others. So it’s
important to know what the signs and symptoms are
and get help if you spot them in your child.
WHAT IS ADD / ADHD?
You know these kids: the ones who can’t sit
still, who never seem to listen, who don’t follow
instructions no matter how clearly you present them,
who blurt out inappropriate comments at inappropriate
times. Sometimes these children are labeled as troublemakers,
or criticized for being lazy and undisciplined. But
the correct label may very well be ADHD.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is
a chronic disorder that appears in early childhood.
You may know it by the name attention deficit disorder,
or ADD, which is what it used to be called. ADD /
ADHD makes it difficult for people to inhibit their
spontaneous responses—responses that can involve
everything from movement to speech and attentiveness.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates
that between 3 and 5 percent of children in the United
States have ADHD. This means that in a classroom of
25 to 30 children, at least one is likely to have
ADD or ADHD can cause many problems if left untreated.
Children with ADD / ADHD may struggle in school, get
into frequent trouble, and find it hard to make friends.
They may develop low self-esteem as a result of failures,
frustrations, and criticism. Their symptoms can also
lead to friction and stress for the whole family.
But treatment can make a dramatic difference in ADD
/ ADHD. With the right support, your child can overcome
the obstacles of ADD / ADHD and get on track for success
in all of areas of life.
MYTHS ABOUT ADD / ADHD
Myth #1: All kids with ADHD are hyperactive.
Some children with ADHD are hyperactive, but many
others with attention problems are not. Children with
ADHD who are inattentive, but not overly active, may
appear to be spacey and unmotivated.
Myth #2: Kids with ADHD can never pay attention.
Children with 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 ADHD choose to be difficult.
They could behave better if they wanted to.
Children with 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
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
Myth #5: Medication is the best treatment
option for ADHD.
Medication can help the symptoms of ADHD when prescribed
properly. But an effective treatment plan also includes
education, behavior therapy, support at home and school,
exercise, and proper nutrition.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ADD
When many people think of ADHD, 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 3 primary characteristics of ADD / ADHD
are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
signs and symptoms a child with ADD / ADHD has depends
on which characteristics predominate. Children with
ADD / ADHD may be:
- Inattentive, but not hyperactive or impulsive.
- Hyperactive and impulsive, but able to
- Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive
(the most common form of ADHD).
The signs and symptoms of ADD / ADHD typically appear
before the age of 7. However, it can be difficult
to distinguish between ADHD 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
disruptive ADD / ADHD signs and symptoms that are
present across all situations–at home, at school,
and at play–it’s time to take a closer
look. One good way to assess your child’s behavior
is to look at other kids his or her age. If your child
is significantly more impulsive, hyperactive, or inattentive
than his or her classmates or friends, it’s
a good idea to see a mental health professional for
an ADHD evaluation.
Which one of these children may have ADD /
A. The hyperactive boy who talks nonstop and can’t
B. The quiet dreamer who sits at her desk and stares
off into space.
C. Both A and B
The correct answer is “C.”
INATTENTIVE SIGNS AND SYPMTOMS
OF ADD / ADHD
Children with ADD / ADHD can pay attention under the
right circumstances. When they’re doing things
they enjoy or hearing about topics in which they’re
interested, they have no trouble focusing and staying
on task. For example, children with ADHD may have
no problem paying attention when playing a favorite
game or listening to a story (The hard part may be
pulling them away to the next activity). But when
the task is repetitive or boring, they quickly tune
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. They also tend to be easily distracted.
Kids with ADD / ADHD have trouble concentrating if
there are things going on around them; they usually
need a calm, quiet environment in order to sustain
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; and clashing with other kids over not playing
by the rules.
Symptoms of inattention in children:
HYPERACTIVITY SIGNS AND SYPMTOMS
OF ADD / ADHD
- Doesn’t pay attention to details
or makes careless mistakes
- Has trouble staying focused; is easily
- Appears not to listen when spoken to
- Has difficulty remembering things and
- Has trouble staying organized, planning
ahead, and finishing projects
- Frequently loses or misplaces homework,
books, toys, or other items
The most obvious sign of ADD / ADHD is hyperactivity.
While many children are naturally quite active, kids
with hyperactive symptoms of ADD / ADHD 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.
Symptoms of hyperactivity in children:
SIGNS AND SYPMTOMS OF ADD / ADHD
- 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
- Has difficulty playing quietly
- Talks excessively
- Is always “on the go,” as
if driven by a motor
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,
Symptoms of impulsivity in children:
OF ADD & ADHD IN CHILDREN
- Blurts out answers without waiting to
be called on hear the whole question
- Has difficulty waiting for his or her
- Often interrupts others
- Intrudes on other people’s conversations
- Inability to keep powerful emotions in
check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper
ADD and ADHD gets in the way of learning. Children
can’t absorb information or get their work done
if they’re running around the classroom or zoning
out when they’re supposed to be reading or listening.
But schoolwork isn’t the only thing that suffers.
The symptoms of ADHD can also affect the child’s
relationships with family members and peers. For example,
a kid with ADHD may be mentally playing a video game
while the ball is flying over his head in center field,
and daydreaming while Mom is asking him to clean up
his room. As a result, the other team just scored
three runs, the bedroom is still a mess, and everyone’s
exasperated and frustrated.
Effects of ADD / ADHD on memory
Children with ADD / ADHD tend to have problems with
working memory. Working memory is the ability to remember
several thoughts or facts you’ve just heard
long enough to use it to solve a problem or perform
a task. When you stop and ask for directions, working
memory is what helps you remember to go five blocks,
make a right at the stop sign, continue for about
a mile until you pass Oak Street, and then make a
left about two and a half blocks past Oak into a driveway
with a red mailbox out front. Obviously, problems
with working memory can be a big obstacle if you’re
trying to do a math problem in your head, follow the
teacher’s instructions, or take a pop quiz.
For a child struggling with ADD / ADHD, retaining
three or four consecutive tasks can be difficult;
it’s better to ask them to only do one or two
things at a time.
Problems with working memory often express
Effects of ADD / ADHD on planning and judgment
- Forgetting instructions
- Difficulty memorizing facts, figures,
- Difficulty summarizing information
- Forgetting one part of the problem while
working on another
ADD / ADHD impairs the area of the brain responsible
for executive function. Executive functioning includes
the abilities to plan, prioritize, organize, move
toward a goal, delay gratification, and monitor your
own behavior. Instructions like “Be patient”
and “Just wait a little while longer”
are extremely difficult for children with ADD / ADHD
to follow. The problems with executive function also
make it difficult for many kids with ADD / ADHD to
recognize personal boundaries and read social cues
such as body language and facial expressions. This
can lead to rebuffs and even ostracism by other children.
Problems with executive function often express
Positive effects of ADD / ADHD
- Poor sense of time and timing
- Poor problem solving
- Difficulty waiting for an outcome
- Low tolerance for frustration
- Poor judgment
In addition to the challenges, there are also some
positive traits associated with people who have ADD
- 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.
IS IT REALLY ADD / ADHD?
Just because a child has symptoms of inattention,
impulsivity, or hyperactivity does not mean that he
or she has ADD or ADHD. Certain medical conditions,
psychological disorders, and stressful life events
can cause symptoms that look like ADD / ADHD. Before
an accurate diagnosis of ADD / ADHD can be made, it
is important that you see a mental health professional
to explore and rule out the following possibilities:
DIAGNOSING ADD / ADHD IN CHILDREN
- Major life events or
traumatic experiences (e.g. a recent move,
death of a loved one, bullying, divorce).
- Learning disabilities
or problems with reading, writing, motor
skills, or language.
- Psychological disorders
including anxiety, depression, and bipolar
- Behavioral disorders
such as conduct disorder and oppositional
- Medical conditions,
including thyroid problems, neurological
conditions, epilepsy, and sleep disorders.
At present, no laboratory or imaging test exists to
determine if your child has ADD / ADHD. Clinicians
base their diagnosis on the signs and symptoms they
observe and by ruling out other disorders. In order
to get an accurate diagnosis, it is important to have
a full medical and psychological evaluation. The doctor
should interview you, your child, and any adults who
can provide insight, such as teachers or nannies.
When choosing a specialist to diagnose your child,
it’s a good idea to get recommendations from
other doctors, therapists, and parents. You can also
call your insurance company for referrals and information
about what is covered by your insurance plan. Mental
health professionals who can diagnose ADD / ADHD include
psychologists, pediatricians, and psychiatrists.
Criteria for an ADD / ADHD diagnosis
A diagnosis of ADD / ADHD requires the following:
HELPING A CHILD WITH ADD
- Early onset –
Symptoms must have been present before age
- Duration – A combination
of symptoms must have been present for at
least 6 months.
- Settings – The
symptoms must be present in two or more
settings, such as home, school, and other
- Impact – The symptoms
must have a negative impact on the individual’s
school, family, and/or social life.
- Developmental level -
The symptoms are not due to the child’s
normal developmental level or young age.
- Alternative explanation -
The symptoms are not caused by another physical
or mental disorder.
If you have a child with the symptoms of ADD / ADHD,
the energy required to get your child to listen, finish
a task, or sit still can be daunting. The constant
monitoring can be frustrating and exhausting. Power
struggles can flip parent-child relationships upside
down and disrupt family harmony. 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.
If you feel embarrassed or responsible for your child’s
inattentive or hyperactive behavior, try to remember
that ADHD is no one’s fault. Your child has
a disorder. Children with ADD / ADHD act this way
because a part of their brain is lacking the ability
to “put the brakes on.” It’s not
because of willful disobedience on your child’s
part, nor is it because of bad parenting.
That said, good parenting strategies can go a long
way in dealing with problem behaviors related to ADD
/ ADHD. Children with ADHD need structure, consistency,
clear communication, and rewards and consequences
for their behavior. They also need lots of love, support,
There are things parents can do to reduce the signs
and symptoms of ADHD–without sacrificing the
natural energy, playfulness, and sense of wonder unique
in every child.
a child with ADD / ADHD
TREATMENT FOR ADD OR ADHD
If your child struggles with symptoms of hyperactivity,
inattention, or impulsivity, don’t wait to seek
treatment. You don’t have to wait for a diagnosis
of ADD / ADHD to get your child into therapy, start
him or her on a better diet and exercise plan, or
modify the home environment to meet your child’s
Once you have a diagnosis, you can pursue the full
range of treatment options for ADD / ADHD. 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 ADD / ADHD treatment.
& ADHD Treatment
Melinda Smith, M.A., Ellen Jaffe-Gill, Deborah Cutter,
Psy.D., and Robert Segal, M.A., contributed to this
article. Last modified on: 7/10/08.
Reprinted with permission from http://www.helpguide.org/.
C 2008 Helpguide.org. All rights reserved.
You can find the original article at
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