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13 Signs of ADHD in Children

  • Kids with ADHD may struggle in school, have trouble with friends, and as a result could experience low self-esteem.
  • The causes of ADHD are not clear, but low birth weight, premature birth, and alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy appear to be correlated.
  • A virtual visit can be an ideal for ADHD care, since it’s convenient and can be done from the comfort of home.

Kids are full of energy, and every child gets fidgety or distracted sometimes. That’s especially true today, while we’re all adapting to new routines like distance learning, working from home and more. But if your child consistently struggles to pay attention, can’t sit still, or isn’t able to stay on task, the reason could be Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A virtual visit with your child’s primary care provider is a great option for diagnosing and treating ADHD.

ADHD in children

ADHD is a chronic condition that affects millions of kids. Children with ADHD have a pattern of inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity—sometimes all three combined—which interferes with functioning, development and relationships. Kids with ADHD will likely struggle in school, may have trouble with friends, and as a result could experience low self-esteem. ADHD symptoms are present before age 12, and can be visible in some kids as early as age three. Problems with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can also be present in other psychological and physical medical conditions. An ADHD evaluation includes ruling out any conditions with overlapping symptoms.

What causes ADHD?

The direct causes of ADHD are not clear. Genetics appear to play a role, and a child is more likely to have the condition if a parent or close relative has ADHD. Other factors have been correlated with ADHD, such as low birth weight, premature birth, alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy, and exposure to environmental toxins like lead.

Signs of ADHD

As the condition’s name suggests, the symptoms of ADHD are about paying attention and excessive activity or impulsivity. Here are some specific signs: 

  1. Has trouble staying attentive or on task during school or play
  2. Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to directly
  3. Doesn’t follow through on instructions or finish tasks
  4. Avoids tasks that require sustained effort or attention
  5. Has trouble waiting their turn
  6. Easily distracted
  7. Fidgets, taps hands or feet, or squirms in their chair
  8. Runs or climbs things when it’s not appropriate
  9. Talks excessively
  10. Interrupts or intrudes on others
  11. Has difficulty playing quietly
  12. Seems like their “motor” is running constantly
  13. Constantly losing or misplacing possessions

ADHD test for children

There isn’t a simple test for ADHD. Instead, diagnosing the condition is a process. The first step is a medical exam, where a health care provider can assess the child and rule out other things that might be causing behavioral issues. A virtual visit can be an ideal option, since it’s convenient and can be done from the comfort of home. After the medical exam, a diagnosis involves identifying and rating your child’s behaviors according to a checklist of ADHD criteria. For this part of the process, your doctor will likely recommend consulting a specialist such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, who will evaluate and rule in or rule out other psychological or cognitive conditions/differences that may be causing or contributing to the symptoms.

Supporting children with ADHD

With the support of parents, teachers and others, many kids manage their ADHD symptoms and thrive. Here are some things you can do to help your child succeed:

Provide plenty of movement breaks

Physical activity can be calming for kids with ADHD. Plus, there’s strong evidence that moderate exercise enhances cognitive processing. So give your child frequent opportunities to use their bodies.

Give those teeth something to do

Research shows chewing gum improves attention and focus. When gum isn’t appropriate, try chewy pendant necklaces or pencil toppers.

Let them wiggle

Consider buying a wiggle seat—a special chair or stool that allows kids to move and wobble without distracting others.

Look them in the eye

Making clear eye contact helps with focus. Get down on the child’s level and look them in the eye when you give instructions or ask questions.

Take it one step at a time

When giving instructions, let your child practice individual steps in a process (“Turn off the TV.” ) before moving on to other steps (“Turn off the TV, then brush your teeth and put on your pajamas”).

Reward them

Behavior strategies like prizes and token boards can be motivating to kids with ADHD. So can verbal praise and encouragement.

Eliminate distractions

Children with ADHD work better in an environment that is structured and free of distractions. Put your child’s workspace in front of a bare wall if possible, or ask that testing at school be done in a quiet room.

Be patient and empathic

Your child needs help developing skills to manage their symptoms. They are not losing things, forgetting information, or getting distracted on purpose. They are trying hard even if it might not look like they are. 

 

 

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