Do you have a 3-4 year old child—a preschool-age child—who appears to be exhibiting some of the classic signs and symptoms of ADHD? Are you concerned that some or all of these behaviors will negatively impact their ability to socialize with other children their age and learn effectively in a preschool setting? If so, the following information may be able to help. In this article we will describe some of the more classic ADHD-like behaviors in preschoolers, and provide some tips on how to prepare your ADHD child for preschool.
Preschoolers and ADHD
Diagnosing ADHD in children that are 3-4 years old can be a tricky affair, largely because many of the behaviors associated with ADHD are also seen very regularly in normal children that age. Some of these behaviors might include:
- Always seem to get into things without permission
- Constantly on the go—excessive energy
- Easily distracted
- Difficulties in sitting still, such as when parents are trying to read to them or during meals
- Goes from one activity to the next without completing the task at hand
- Interrupts conversations between children and or other adults
- Acts impulsively, intruding on others and snatching items without permission
- Throwing tantrums when frustrated or upset
Every parent has had at least limited experiences such as these with their preschool-age child, but these behaviors do not always equate to the symptoms of ADHD. According to doctors, in determining whether their child’s behavior is the result of ADHD, and not just normal behavior for a child of that age, parents should try to provide honest answers to several questions, including:
- How does the child’s behavior and focus compare to other children the same age? Is it more disruptive, extreme and frequent?
- Are the symptoms and behaviors leading to chronic problems with daily functioning?
- Do the symptoms seem to be innate, or could they be caused by outside factors and conditions?
While doctors are often reluctant to diagnose ADHD in children under 5 years old, several affirmative responses to the questions listed above could very well lead to an ADHD diagnosis, but there are still several steps parents can take to help prepare their child for preschool success.
How to Prepare Your ADHD Child for Preschool
Early intervention with an ADHD child can have remarkable benefits. Parents who have a clear understanding of their child’s behavior and the way it affects them can implement strategies at home that will also translate to a preschool setting.
Often, a children’s difficulty in controlling their behavior can be benefited by positive behavior management, with techniques that might include:
- Increasing the amount of structure and predictability at home, such as setting up routines, with the same times for meals, activities and sleep.
- Reducing distractions. Children who are working on activities will usually have better success when distractions, which could include television among other things, are reduced.
- Rewards and consequences. A discipline plan that only includes consequences will rarely be effective with an ADHD child of preschool age. Instead set up a system where children are rewarded for following the rules, just as they are disciplined for breaking them.
In rare cases, children of preschool age will demonstrate very severe ADHD symptoms—symptoms that drastically affect their ability to function normally. In these cases, in addition to behavior management techniques and lifestyle changes implemented by parents, the child may also benefit from a low dose of stimulant medication. This will usually ease symptoms enough to allow children to focus while in school, and reduce the accompanying impulsivity that can often inhibit their ability to socialize normally.