Diagnosing ADHD in Children
“Kids will be kids.” “He’ll grow out of it.” “Five-year-olds are supposed to have a lot of energy.” “They ask too much of kids today.” These are just some of the responses you hear when you begin to discuss attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with people in your life as they attempt to minimize the problem or dismiss it completely.
ADHD, like many other mental health disorders, is difficult to diagnose in children. This is largely due to the idea that ADHD symptoms are simply exaggerated versions of normal behaviors.
Everyone feels sad or nervous sometimes, but this does not mean they have a depression or anxiety diagnosis. Likewise, all kids will experience symptoms related to hyperactivity or poor attention, but that does not indicate they have ADHD. It means they are displaying normal and typical behavior for kids their age.
Know the Symptoms
To better understand the subtleties of ADHD, you must know the signs and symptoms of ADHD that represent the condition to know whether diagnosis is appropriate. As the name describes, ADHD symptoms are separated into two categories: inattention and hyperactivity.
The attention symptoms of ADHD are:
- Frequent mistakes
- Difficulty paying attention for long periods
- Difficulty listening to others
- Problems following directions and completing tasks and assignments
- Being messy and losing needed items frequently
- Managing time poorly
- Avoids and dislikes tasks that require mental effort
- Easily distracted by their surroundings
- Difficulty remembering what others tell them
Hyperactivity symptoms are:
- Being restless with fidgeting, tapping, squirming or making noises
- Moving around rather than staying in seat or expected location
- Running, climbing or moving quickly when not appropriate
- Unable to play alone
- Appearing to have an unlimited supply of energy
- Trouble staying calm and quiet
- Limited ability to take turns in conversations and will shout out answers
- Difficulty waiting and being patient
- Interrupts or bothers others by joining into a game or activity without being invited
At this point, you may be thinking your child shows all of these signs constantly or that they never do. You may think issues are only a concern at school or at home. You may think your child’s symptoms are not as bad as other children you know.
Next page: tracking possible symptoms and seeking diagnosis.