first symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often appear
between the ages of three and six. The earliest symptoms can be hard to
recognize and are often overlooked. For instance, silly or erratic behavior may
be dismissed as typical toddler antics. Kids will be kids after all. ADHD
symptoms also vary from person to person. There are no one-size-fits-all
diagnostic signs or clues.
Recognizing ADHD Symptoms
is often first recognized when a child starts school and is required to
participate in organized activities. Teachers may observe that a child has
difficulties following set rules and playing with other children in a
structured environment. This can include:
- trouble following class rules
- sitting still
- waiting turns
- following instructions
might also include frequent "spacing out" in the classroom or on the
playground. Parents often may be the first to sense that their child is not
succeeding in school or successfully interacting with others.
Other Causes of ADHD Symptoms
should meet with a pediatrician if you or your child’s teacher suspects that your
child may have ADHD. The pediatrician will assess your child and may refer you
to a mental health specialist with experience in diagnosing and treating ADHD.
It’s essential to rule out other possible explanations for the symptoms your
child is experiencing.
situations, events, and health conditions may cause temporary behaviors that
are similar to symptoms of ADHD. These include:
- previously undetected hearing or vision problems
- other medical conditions that affect thinking and behavior, such
as bipolar disorder
- learning disabilities
- undetected seizures
- low red blood cell count that can cause low energy and poor
- anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems that cause
- sudden life changes, such as the death of a family member, a
divorce, or a recent relocation by the family
Investigation by a Specialist
mental health specialist may be able to rule out these other explanations for
your child’s symptoms. In this case, they will consult people who know your
child well. This will allow the doctor to get more history and gain a better
idea of the time frame of the behavior.
also will help determine if there are any other environmental factors causing
the ADHD behaviors. The specialist may also observe your child in a variety of
settings and situations. This is to see if they react in ways that are typical
of someone who suffers from ADHD.
It’s also important to remember that “normal kid” behavior
can be mistaken for ADHD. This can include getting distracted easily, acting
impulsively, and struggling to concentrate. Children have personalities and
energy levels that change as they mature. Only a doctor can accurately diagnose a disorder such as ADHD.
are no tests that can confirm a diagnosis of ADHD with 100 percent accuracy.
The tests a specialist will perform when assessing a child for ADHD are geared
toward ruling out any other potential causes of ADHD-like behaviors. These
tests then gather as much information as possible about the behavioral patterns.
Possible tests may include:
- a complete medical examination
to rule out conditions such as seizures and vision or hearing problems
- a blood test to rule out
- questionnaires or checklists
about your child’s behavior
- interviewing people in your
child’s life about his or her behavioral patterns
- observing your child playing
with friends, working in the classroom, and interacting at home
- having your child complete
tasks that require focus and concentration
- having your child attend a
family counseling session with you