How do parents and teachers determine whether or not a child may be suffering from ADHD? Are there certain characteristics of ADHD children—characteristics that differentiate the symptoms of this disorder from normal childhood behavior? Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for parents and teachers of children who could potentially be affected by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is that many characteristics of ADHD in children are also present in unaffected children, albeit to a lesser degree. This challenge can often cause delays in getting children and their parents the help they need to cope with this disorder and to lessen its effects. To help shed some light on this topic, in this article we will briefly define ADHD and the three main symptoms associated with it, followed by a list of 5 overt characteristics for each of these three symptoms.
ADHD in Children: Definition, Symptoms and Classifications
According to the American Pediatrics Association, ADHD is a brain disorder that san significantly impact a child’s focus, concentration and behavior. The disorder, which affects 8%-10% of all school-age children, usually begins very early in life, prior to a child’s 7th birthday, and its effects can last well into adolescence and adulthood in some cases. ADHD is much more common in boys than in girls, with boys 3x more likely to develop the disorder than are girls.
The three main symptoms associated with ADHD are hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention, but contrary to popular belief, not all ADHD children will show signs of each of these symptoms. For example, some children will merely suffer from hyperactivity and impulsive actions, but can be extremely attentive if they want to be, while others are rarely active and impulsive, but trying to get their attention and focus can be next to impossible.
Doctors who diagnose ADHD children use criteria that is set forth by the American Psychiatric Association and printed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV or DSM IV. Based on a how child scores when measured against these criteria, there are three subtypes or classifications of ADHD-diagnoses that are possible, including:
- ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
- ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type
- ADHD Predominantly Combined Type
One interesting note about these subtypes is that boys who are diagnosed with ADHD mainly tend to fall into the first and third categories—hyperactive-impulsive and combined—while girls who are diagnosed with ADHD tend to be placed more into subtype #2, or predominantly inattentive.
5 Characteristics of ADHD Children
As mentioned above, the three main symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity, or how your child moves; impulsivity, or how he/she acts or behaves; and inattention, which refers to your child’s ability to focus and concentrate. Below we have compiled 5 characteristics or behaviors that reflect each of the three main symptoms:
- Fidgeting or squirming in his/her seat
- Always getting up and down
- Climbing, jumping and running when it’s inappropriate
- Seems to be always on the go, constant motion
- Excessive talking
- Doesn’t enjoy waiting in lines or waiting for his/her turn
- Constantly intruding on other children’s activities
- Always interrupting other people’s conversations
- Blurting out answers to questions before being called upon to do so
- Acting before thinking—usually inappropriately
- Always seem to be daydreaming, off in his/her own world
- Is easily distracted
- Does not seem to listen when being spoken to
- Constantly forgetting or misplacing items
- Difficulty following directions
Most children, whether they are ADHD-diagnosed or not, will at times demonstrate some of these characteristics of ADHD children. That’s just part of being young. However, a tell-tale sign that your child may need professional help is when these behaviors are frequent and severe, usually to the point that they affect his or her ability to live and function normally.