Recognizing the symptoms of ADHD in children

Most healthy children occasionally have trouble sitting still, paying attention or controlling impulses. But for some children, the problem is so bad that it interferes with their daily lives at home, at school and in social settings.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is characterized by not being able to pay attention, hyperactivity (highly or excessively active) and impulsive behavior.

There are three identified types of ADHD.

A child who has the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD exhibits the following symptoms:

• Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes

• Has difficulty sustaining attention

• Does not appear to listen

• Struggles to follow through on instructions

• Has difficulty with organization

• Avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort

• Loses things

• Is easily distracted

• Is forgetful in daily activities

A child who has the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD:

• Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair

• Has difficulty remaining seated

• Runs about or climbs excessively

• Has difficulty engaging in activities quietly

• Acts as if driven by a motor

• Talks excessively

• Blurts out answers before questions are completed

• Has difficulty waiting or taking turns

• Interrupts or intrudes upon others

Finally, children who have the combined type of ADHD meet both sets of criteria.

There is no simple test to determine whether someone has ADHD. A diagnosis can be difficult to make and should be made only by an expert, such as a school psychologist or pediatrician after an extensive evaluation. This evaluation should include ruling out other possible causes for the symptoms, a physical examination, and a series of interviews with the individual and key persons in his or her life.

A diagnosis of ADHD can be very scary. However, with early diagnosis and the right treatment, including medication and appropriate counseling and behavior therapy, most children with ADHD grow up to be normal, successful adults. The best results usually occur when teachers, parents and doctors work together.

If you’re concerned that your child is displaying signs of ADHD, talk to your pediatrician or primary care manager.

For more information on ADHD, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at or visit