Just Being a Kid or ADHD

Welcome back to Ask Dr. Mom! Today, I’ll be dealing with ADHD. The signs to look out for and what to do should you suspect your child may have it.

Dear Dr.Mom

I was wondering if you could enlighten me on the signs of ADHD in a child. And, what should be done if you suspect a child is suffering from this?


ADHD is one of the most common chronic conditions in school aged children. Unfortunately, the number of children being diagnosed and treated for ADHD has risen in recent years. While I will list signs to look out for, what I hope you keep in mind and take away from my post is this: all children will, at one time or another, have some behavioral difficulties. What is different in children with ADHD is that their symptoms are frequent, severe, and interfere with their ability to function normally in school and at home.

Signs of ADHD:

Inattentive: difficulty focusing on task at hand, daydreams, easily distracted, is disorganized and loses things frequently.

Hyperactive: Child is in constant motion, cannot sit still and squirms a lot. Talks excessively.

Impulsive:  Will often speak and act before thinking. Is unable to wait or take turns. Often interrupts others.

Okay, well I think I’ve just described my five year old son! Right? Anyone else with me here?

So, yes, these symptoms are generic and can almost describe any child under the age of 6 at some point or another. What makes the difference? Here are the key differences:

-These symptoms must occur in more than one setting. Meaning, they must be present at school and at home
-These symptoms must be more severe and frequent than what would normally be expected for their age group
-Symptoms must be present for 6 months or more
-The symptoms must interfere with their ability to function at school or at home

Now what? What if you highly suspect your child is truly suffering from ADHD, what is your next step?

The next step is to see your child’s pediatrician and get the diagnosis process started. There is no simple test for ADHD. The diagnosis is just that, a process.

This process should include a thorough history and family history regarding your child. You should be given something called a Connor’s Rating Scale which is a questionnaire that you, your child’s teachers, and any other caregivers, should carefully answer and return to your child’s pediatrician. Your child should also be evaluated for other possible conditions affecting his ability to concentrate, such as a learning disability, anxiety, depressions, or conduct disorder to name a few.

In addition, your child must also meet the DSM-IV criteria for diagnosis of ADHD.

Once all of these conditions have been met and your child has been completely evaluated as outlined above, then and only then can a diagnosis be made. Also, a child under the age of 6 cannot reliably be diagnosed with ADHD.

I will not go into detail about treatment options in this post. You should work closely with your child’s pediatrician, teachers, and possibly, specialists to put a treatment plan together. Just be aware of this: treatment is multifaceted here and is an ongoing process. Behavior therapy, parental education and training, environmental modification, and medication all play a role in successfully treating a child with ADHD and should be individualized for each child.

With all that being said, remember to look at your child in a positive light. Many children with ADHD are bright, talented, and creative children who just happen to have a different way of learning and interacting with others. Celebrate their talents and uniqueness and aim to uncover your child’s specialness.

For more information on diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, visit HealthyChildren.org. This page has a plethora of information on all aspects of ADHD.

Do you have a story to share about a child in your life and ADHD?

Remember to submit your parenting or health related questions to mommamd4two(at)aol(dot)com or leave them in the comments. If you don’t have a question but would like to see a specific topic covered here on Ask Dr.Mom please feel free to let me know!

13 Responses to Just Being a Kid or ADHD
  1. My 5 Monkeys(Julie)
    January 5, 2011 | 5:37 pm

    My son was diagonized with this and curious about my daughters…but I have found with my kids –speech issues were prevelant.

    Is this a family thing ??? I won't have my daughters tested til they are at least in 3rd grade.

  2. TheBabyMammaChronicles
    January 5, 2011 | 5:43 pm

    Thanks so much Melissa! This was definitely helpful and I'm going to have to file it all away and reevaluate our situation with/against this information.

  3. Kristin
    January 5, 2011 | 5:53 pm

    Great info!

  4. Katherine
    January 5, 2011 | 6:49 pm

    The more I look at my 4 year old son, the more I'm worried that he may be diagnosed with ADHD. He is a fun, happy child, but just over the top. He's never sat still more than 5 minutes (getting him to sit still and eat is a nightmare). But I'm waiting, giving him time. And even then, I'm not sure I'd do medication.

  5. Gigi
    January 5, 2011 | 7:27 pm

    One thing that I'd like to point out -particularly to your previous poster – is that a lot of the markers of ADHD are also common to things like sensory processing disorder, which is treated very differently than ADHD.

    I was convinced my son had ADHD or some sort of attention issue when he was 3 (his behavior was extreme, won't go into detail) but it turned out he had sensory processing disorder.

    Just thought I'd share!

  6. Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom)
    January 5, 2011 | 9:34 pm

    @Julie: Yes genetics play a strong role and you bring home the point that other conditions may exist the exacerbate ADHD symptoms, like the speech issues with your children

    @BabyMammaChronicles: Thank you for a great question! I'm glad this was helpful, good luck!

    @Katherine: Good for you for waiting. Only time will tell and I'm with you about wanting to try all other treatment options before resorting to medications.

    @Gigi: Thank you for bringing that up! It's always good to consider other conditions that may mimic ADHD. How is your son doing now?

  7. Cheryl D.
    January 5, 2011 | 9:57 pm

    Another great, informative post!

  8. Sherri
    January 6, 2011 | 3:28 pm

    Melissa, this is great information! A lot of the kids who I see at work in my social skills groups have been diagnosed with ADHD, and many times even just the teachers will "label" them without diagnosis. I think it's important to separate the normal behaviors of kids (especially boys!) from the diagnosis of ADHD and subsequent treatment. It saddens me when I see people rushing to jump on a bandwagon without really trying to identify what's going on with their particular kid.

    Like Gigi pointed out, there are many things that can cause behavior issues! Great post.

  9. Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds
    January 6, 2011 | 4:14 pm

    Now that I'm working in special ed I'm getting more experience with ADHD. Thankfully, as a parent it's not an issue.

  10. Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom)
    January 6, 2011 | 4:18 pm

    @Sherri: Sadly, I see this all too often in clinic too, and yes, especially with boys. I do feel our culture is one that is especially hard on boys. Boys play and learn differently…doesn't mean they have ADHD.

  11. MommyToTwoBoys
    January 10, 2011 | 8:19 pm

    Great and informative post.

    You know my older one has Autism, but I swear my 2 year old could already be diagnosed with ADHD! I know, it's way to early. But in all my years of teaching, daycare, and nannying I've never seen a kid who can't be still as much as him. He won't even sit to eat! He is a wild little man! But seriously, I know to wait for a bit before we do an eval.

  12. Anonymous
    January 19, 2011 | 6:27 pm

    I know you have no idea who I am but I had to comment here.
    As a teenager with pretty severe AD/HD (I have had many people who continuously work with ADD/AD/HD kids tell me I'm the worse case they have ever seen) and a genius IQ I appreciate the fact that you addressed the seriousness of the issue, and also address the fact that this is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact it show a creative mind. . . it's just different. thank you for portraying this differently than so many people do.

  13. Elizabeth
    December 26, 2013 | 7:06 pm

    I was wondering my 5yr old almost 6 shows some signs and we were given the Vanderbilt questioner by the dr, how do I know if its just her age or if she really has a problem.