Signs of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can look different for every child depending on a variety of factors, including age. Most importantly, every child follows a unique path in development. Children who do not receive a diagnosis of ADHD may show some of these signs.
What is ADHD?
Individuals with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning or development. In order for a child to be diagnosed with ADHD, the symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity must:
- Be present before the age of 12
- Be present in two or more settings (e.g., home, school, work)
- Clearly interfere with school, social, or work life and function
- Not be the result of an underlying medical condition
What is Inattention?
Inattention is difficulty sustaining focus. This can be seen in a child as limited attention span, distractibility, or forgetfulness. Some children are easily distracted by external stimuli, can often lose track of time or things, and may procrastinate.
Behaviors Indicative of Inattention (according to the DSM-V):
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
What is Hyperactivity?
Hyperactivity is increased movement. This can be seen in a child as fidgeting, nervousness, excessive movement, excessive talking, or difficulty concentrating.
What is Impulsivity?
Impulsivity is difficulty with self-control or acting on a whim. This can be seen in a child as behavior that displays little or no consideration of the consequences. Behavior often occurs quickly and lacks forethought, planning, or control.
Behaviors Indicative of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity (according to the DSM-V):
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
- Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA:
American Psychiatric Association, 2013.