Children & Youth

What Parents Need to Know About ADHD


All parents want the best for their young children and hope that their child meets their milestones. Sometimes, however, you may notice that your child is unable to sit still during circle time or seems cranky more than expected. When these behaviors persist, parents may wonder if their child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), one of the most common disorders affecting children. 

The main characteristics associated with ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Since most young children can be hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive at times, it can be difficult to know if your child is exhibiting symptoms of ADHD. If you notice the following symptoms both at home and at school (or preschool or daycare), it may be time to have your child evaluated for ADHD by a mental health professional. 

Symptoms of attention deficit:

  • Inattention to detail leading to frequent mistakes in school or work
  • Inability to maintain attention for extended periods (e.g., cannot sit still during story time or read for long periods)  
  • Easily distracted, unfocused during conversations, and appears to not pay attention
  • Poor time management, often missing deadlines
  • Misplaces possessions, loses toys or materials at school
  • Difficulty following directions, especially with multi-step tasks
  • Avoids homework or projects that require extended periods of effort
  • Appears messy or disorganized

Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity:

  • Difficulty sitting still – fidgets or taps hands or feet when sitting
  • Frequently leaves their seat or walks around when expected to remain in place
  • Runs or engages in activities at inappropriate times
  • Unable to play or engage in activities quietly
  • Uncomfortable being still, always seems to be “on the go”
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn, often blurts out answers
  • Interrupts others
  • Talks excessively
  • Makes hasty decisions; has an inability to delay gratification
  • Behaviors that can result in high risk of harm, such as running into street
  • Easily angered, frequent temper tantrums

Children are often not diagnosed with ADHD until they reach elementary school, but children as young as three or four can be tested for ADHD. Left untreated, those with ADHD can struggle with organization, sitting still, and maintaining focus, which impacts their ability to learn and maintain relationships. While there is no cure for ADHD, early intervention and treatment can significantly help those with ADHD live happy and successful lives. 

Want to learn more about ADHD? Visit the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s ADHD Resource Center.