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ADHD—What Are the Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

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Does your child have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Here is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about the symptoms and types of ADHD.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD includes 3 groups of symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. (See Table 1.)

Table 1: Symptoms of ADHD

Symptom

How a Child With This Symptom May Behave
Inattention
Often has a hard time paying attention; daydreams
Often does not seem to listen
Is easily distracted from work or play
Often does not seem to notice details; makes careless mistakes
Frequently does not follow through on instructions or finish tasks
Is disorganized
Frequently loses a lot of important things
Often forgets things
Frequently avoids doing things that require ongoing mental efforts
Hyperactivity
Is in constant motion, as if "driven by a motor"
Has trouble staying seated
Frequently squirms and fidgets
Talks a lot
Often runs, jumps, and climbs when this behavior is not permitted
Has trouble playing quietly
Impulsivity
Frequently acts and speaks without thinking
May run into the street without looking for traffic first
Frequently has trouble taking turns
Cannot wait for things
Often calls out an answer before the question is complete
Frequently interrupts others

Are there different types of ADHD?

Children with ADHD may have one or more of the symptoms listed in Table 1. The symptoms are usually classified as the following types of ADHD:

  • Inattentive (formerly known as attention-deficit disorder [ADD])—Children with this type of ADHD are not overly active. Because they do not disrupt the classroom or other activities, their symptoms may not be noticed. Among females with ADHD, this form is more common.

  • Hyperactive-impulsive—Children with this type of ADHD have increased activity and impulsivity with typical attention spans. This is the least common type and often occurs in younger children.

  • Combined inattentivehyperactive-impulsive—Children with this type of ADHD have all 3 symptoms. It is the type most people think of when they think of ADHD.

How can I tell if my child has ADHD?

Remember, it is common for all children to show some of these symptoms from time to time. Your child may be reacting to stress at school or at home. They may be bored or going through a difficult stage of life. It does not mean your child has ADHD.

Sometimes a teacher is the first to notice inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity and informs the parents. Maybe questions from your child's doctor raised the issue. At well-child visits (health supervision visits), your child's doctor may ask

  • How is your child doing in school?

  • Are there any problems with learning that you or your child's teachers have seen?

  • Is your child happy in school?

  • Is your child having problems completing classwork or homework?

  • Are you concerned with any problems in school, at home, or during play with friends?

Your answers to these questions may lead to further evaluation for ADHD. If your child has shown symptoms of ADHD regularly for more than 6 months, discuss this with their doctor.

Visit HealthyChildren.org for more information.

Disclaimer

Adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics patient education booklet, Understanding ADHD: Information for Parents About Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.

In all aspects of its publishing program (writing, review, and production), the AAP is committed to promoting principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The information contained in this publication should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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