Recognizing ADHD in
- ADHD can be difficult to diagnose in toddlers because its symptoms may be just typical toddler behavior.
- If you’re feeling dubious about your child’s behavior, don’t guess — see your doctor.
- Medication and lifestyle changes can help relieve your child’s symptoms.
Does your child have attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder, also known as ADHD? It’s not always easy to tell, since toddlers
tend to have difficulty paying attention in general.
But ADHD is more than just typical toddler behavior.
According to the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), the condition can extend beyond toddler age to
affect teens and even adults. This is why it’s important to recognize signs of
ADHD in early childhood.
Read on for a checklist of symptoms to watch out for.
According to the Mayo
Clinic, toddler-aged children from 2 to 3 years old can display symptoms of
According to the NIH,
these are the three main signs of the condition in kids over age 3:
These behaviors also occur in children without ADHD. Your
child won’t be diagnosed with the condition unless symptoms continue for more
than six months and affect their ability to participate in age-appropriate
activities. Great care needs to be taken in diagnosing a child under 5 with
ADHD, particularly if medication is being considered. A diagnosis at this young
age is best made by a child psychiatrist or a pediatrician specializing in
behavior and development.
There are a number of behaviors that can indicate your child
has problems with attention, a key sign of ADHD. In school-age children these
- inability to focus on one activity
- trouble completing tasks before getting bored
- difficulty listening as a result of distraction
- problems following instructions and processing
Note, however, that these behaviors can be normal in a
In the past, ADHD was called “ADD,” for “attention deficit disorder.” As
reported by the Mayo
Clinic, the medical community now prefers to call the condition ADHD
because the disorder often includes a component of hyperactivity and
impulsivity. This is particularly true when diagnosed in preschool-aged
Signs of hyperactivity that may indicate your toddler has ADHD include:
- being overly fidgety and squirmy
- having an inability to sit still for calm activities
like eating and having books read to them
- talking and making noise excessively
- running from toy to toy, or constantly being in motion
Another telltale symptom of ADHD is impulsivity. Signs that your child has
overly impulsive behaviors include:
- displaying extreme impatience with others
- refusing to wait their turn when playing with other
- interrupting when others are talking
- blurting out comments at inappropriate times
- having difficulty controlling their emotions
- being prone to outbursts
- intruding when others are playing, rather than asking
first to join in
Again, these behaviors can be
normal in toddlers. They would only be concerning if they’re extreme when
compared to those of similarly aged children.
signs and symptoms
Krieger Institute (KKI) has identified several other warning signs of ADHD
in toddlers between 3 and 4 years old. The KKI notes that children in this age
group may become injured from running too fast or not following instructions.
More signs of ADHD may include:
- aggressive behavior when playing
- lack of caution with strangers
- overly bold behavior
- endangering oneself or others due to fearlessness
- inability to hop on one foot by age 4
It is possible to misdiagnose a child with ADHD because most toddlers will
exhibit the following ADHD symptoms at various times:
- lack of focus
- excessive energy
It’s sometimes easy for parents and even teachers to mistake ADHD for other
problems. Toddlers who are sitting quietly and behaving in preschool may
actually not be paying attention. Children who are hyperactive might just have
If you’re feeling dubious about your child’s behavior, don’t guess — see
notes that ADHD is very common among children with conditions pertaining to the
brain. But just because ADHD is common doesn’t mean it shouldn’t warrant
If you’re worried that your toddler may be showing signs of ADHD, talk to
your pediatrician about how to manage it. While there is no cure for ADHD,
medication and lifestyle changes can help relieve your child’s symptoms and
give them a good chance for future success.