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The Early Signs of ADHD in Children

The Early Signs of ADHD in Children

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is a condition that affects a person’s behavior. Children who have ADHD experience restlessness, inattention, and impulsivity. While there’s no cure for ADHD, early diagnosis and intervention can make a lot of difference. For this reason, it’s crucial to spot the early signs of ADHD in children.

The Early Signs of ADHD in Children

According to experts, it’s typically hard to spot the early signs of ADHD in children because the clues that revolve around inattention, restlessness, and impulsivity are common in healthy growth and development.

Hence, many parents only think about ADHD once their child has grown a bit more, and entered elementary school. There, the signs become apparent: their child continues to exhibit restlessness while their peers seem to have outgrown their impulsive and hyperactive behavior.

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The following clues, which are divided into two categories, may indicate that a child has ADHD.

Signs of inattention

Half of the concern with ADHD is the child’s inability to pay attention. They might exhibit inattentiveness to anyone: parents, teachers, and friends. Often, their lack of attention interferes with their ability to think, listen, and learn.

Inattention can make it hard for a child to:

  • Concentrate on tasks
  • Pay close attention to details, which often leads them to commit careless mistakes
  • Listen, even if you are talking to them directly
  • Follow instructions and keep up with chores or homework
  • Organize items and keep track of their belongings (they might lose items frequently)
  • Recall things they need to do for the day
  • Accomplish tasks that need mental effort for an extended period. In fact, they might avoid such tasks or express their dislike
  • Avoid distractions

These early signs of ADHD in children often make them switch from one task or activity to the next without completing the previous one.

early signs of ADHD in children

Signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness

A child on the hyperactive and impulsive side of ADHD can be described as excitable – one with a lot of energy, so they tend to act on their impulse. Experts say that hyperactivity and impulsivity may lead to disruptive outcomes.

A child who has ADHD may:

  • Appear “stubborn.” For instance, they will not remain seated in school or church even if you explicitly told them to stay in their seat.
  • Interrupt activities, games, and conversations
  • Look restless: they will fidget, tap their foot, or squirm
  • Find it hard to be patient; they cannot wait for their turn
  • Run and climb at inappropriate times
  • Exclaim their answers before questions are completed
  • Find it hard to stay quiet; they may talk nonstop
  • Be excitable, as if they’re ready to bolt anytime
  • Not show a sense of danger; they act on impulse

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Symptoms vary in children

Please note that the symptoms of ADHD in children vary, so upon your visit to the doctor, expect to answer questionnaires and respond to health interview questions.

The physician will also use ADHD rating scales and the criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5 published by the American Psychiatric Association to assess your child.

Depending on their symptoms, the doctor may categorize your child’s condition into one of the following:

  • Predominantly inattentive, when the child has inattention symptoms but not hyperactive or impulsive behavior.
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, when the child has many hyperactive and impulsive symptoms, but they can pay attention.
  • Combined, when the child has both inattention and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.

Please note that the early signs of ADHD can change in children. Hence, at one point, they may have the combined form, then transition to being predominantly inattentive.

Next Steps

Remember that young kids, especially preschoolers, may naturally show signs of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness as a part of their growth and development. Hence, don’t panic if your little one appears too energetic.

If you’re worried that they may seem to have ADHD, especially if the symptoms appear often and already interfere with their development, the best course of action is to bring them to a pediatrician.

Learn more about ADHD here.


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https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/adhd/Pages/Early-Warning-Signs-of-ADHD.aspx Accessed January 28, 2021 Symptoms -Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/symptoms/ Accessed January 28, 2021 Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350889 Accessed January 28, 2021 18 Early Warning Signs of ADHD You Can Observe in Your Children https://www.iowaclinic.com/pediatrics/early-warning-signs-adhd-children/ Accessed January 28, 2021 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml Accessed January 28, 2021
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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jan 30, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel