What are signs of ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) in kids?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)
Signs that your preschooler has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD include high activity level, impulsivity, and short attention span even for a child his age and developmental level. This is an issue in more than one setting, such as in preschool and at home. Or maybe things are more serious. Other behaviors seen in preschoolers with ADHD include unbuckling seat belts and threatening to open the car door, jumping or falling out of windows, and ingesting toxic chemicals. Frequently, these children need to be supervised closely for their safety and the safety of those around them. As you look back, was Junior an infant who ran as soon as he walked, was hard to please, and had problems sleeping?
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It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends. A child with ADHD might:

  • have a hard time paying attention
  • daydream a lot 
  • not seem to listen
  • be easily distracted from schoolwork or play 
  • forget things 
  • be in constant motion or unable to stay seated
  • squirm or fidget
  • talk too much
  • not be able to play quietly
  • act and speak without thinking
  • have trouble taking turns
  • interrupt others

Children often start to manifest signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by the time they start school. They will be unable to pay attention to the specific task for the amount of time that is required. Even in kindergarten, they only want them to pay attention for 30 minutes, but some kids with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or ADHD will be unable to do that. They are unable to pay attention to the details and listen to directions that the teacher gives them. So they will often not complete their homework, either because they got distracted or because they didn't understand the directions.

Sometimes when they have the hyperactivity component, they won't be able to stay in their seat, so they'll get up and wander around or they'll bother other students or kind of fidget a lot. Sometimes, especially in girls, they don't get out of their seat, but they are just not paying attention, and so it can kind of go unnoticed.

The thing you want to watch for in your child is if they are not performing up to their potential. They're forgetting to turn in assignments, they're making silly mistakes that you know they can do when you're helping them, and they're starting to fall behind in their coursework, or if they're having significant behavior problems at school.

Signs of ADHD can show up early and you may notice those kids who are running around playing, unable to focus, but that can be normal, especially for younger ages of 2 or 3 years old. We don't expect them to be able to pay attention to one thing for longer than 10 or 15 minutes. So that does not necessarily mean that your child has an attention problem. It probably just has to do with where they're at with development.

Constance Mofunanya, DNP
Pediatric Nursing Specialist

Specific symptoms of inattention are

  • Dose not pay attention to detail
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention at school
  • Dose not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Does not follow through on instructions or finish task
  • Has difficulty organizing task
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that requires sustained mental effort
  • Often losses things
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful

Specific symptoms of hyperactivities are

  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms
  • Often leaves seat in class room or elsewhere
  • Often runs about or climbs excessively
  • Has difficulty playing quietly
  • Often on the g, acting as if driven by motor
  • Often talks excessively

Specific symptoms of Impulsivity

  • Often blurts out answers before question are completed
  • Often has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Often interrupts and intrudes on others

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.