Recognizing Early Signs of ADHD

Toddlers and pre-school age children are undoubtedly hyper, rambunctious and full of energy. So how can you tell when this is just a function of their young age, or if it something more serious, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Typically, kids are not screened for ADHD until they are school-aged. As a parent, there are certain behaviors or symptoms you can watch for as possible indications of ADHD.

  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating - can your child do a puzzle uninterrupted? Sit still during the duration of an age-appropriate story?
  • Appears not to listen – is your child able to have a conversation with you? Does he or she ask about things unrelated to what you are talking about?
  • Trouble controlling behavior – does your child have a hard time getting emotions under control?
  • Extreme hyperactivity – is your child in constant motion or continually fidgeting?

All of the behaviors above could be just as easily seen by an average toddler as one with ADHD. While you can keep an eye out for these symptoms, a doctor’s evaluation is necessary for a true diagnosis.

If your child is under the age of 5, it is likely that the first course of treatment will be behavioral-based therapy. That might entail techniques that can be enforced at home to reward good behavior, admonish bad behavior and provide overall structure to the child’s day and routine.

There is no set age at which a child can “get” ADHD. The most recent study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that approximately 388,000 children between the ages of 2 and 5 have been clinically diagnosed with ADHD. Over the past 20 years, there has been an upward increase in the number of patient-reported diagnoses of children with ADHD.

The bottom line is, while it’s important to let kids be kids, it’s equally important to take any potential ADHD-like behaviors seriously. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician or a trained behavioral health specialist if you have any concerns about your child.