ADHD Symptoms in Children

A girl is not motivated to finish homework.

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that affects behavior. A recent national study reported by the CDC noted that 11% of school aged children are being diagnosed with ADHD. Three main symptoms define ADHD including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The symptoms are severe enough to affect the child's behavior in social situations and at school. The criteria for ADHD diagnosis were established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association) in 1994. To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must exhibit the symptoms outlined in this slideshow for at least six months.

ADHD Symptoms: Inattention

What is Inattention?

Inattention refers to the tendency to be easily distracted. It's one of the defining features of ADHD. Read on to learn about symptoms of inattention.

A mom is frustrated with her child's poor schoolwork.

Inattention Symptoms in ADHD

Repeated, careless mistakes are symptoms of inattention. Failure to pay attention to details results in errors at school, work, and in other areas.

A teacher is not happy about her student's inattention.

Inattention Symptoms in ADHD

A child who has inattention associated with ADHD may have trouble paying attention to the task at hand. Whether related to schoolwork or play, a child with inattention may become easily bored and have trouble focusing on an activity.

A boy covers his hears and does not listen to his mother.

Inattention Symptoms in ADHD

A child who has inattention with ADHD may have difficulty listening when being spoken to.

A bored and inattentive boy in school.

Inattention Symptoms in ADHD

Another symptom of ADHD inattention is the inability to complete tasks. Children with ADHD may not complete homework or chores. This "failure to follow through" is not due to another cause such as oppositional behavior or an inability to understand instructions.

In ADHD adults, inability to complete work tasks is another symptom of inattention.

A girl sits in her disorganized and messy bedroom.

Inattention Symptoms in ADHD

Organization is a skill that children with ADHD often struggle with. Disorganization makes it difficult for ADHD kids to complete tasks.

A father tries to help his son who doesn't understand and is giving up on homework.

Inattention Symptoms in ADHD

A child with ADHD may find it difficult or impossible to participate in tasks requiring continuous mental exertion. Schoolwork and homework that require focused effort may be challenging.

A girl who lost something but doesn't seem to care.

Inattention Symptoms in ADHD

ADHD children often lose objects. Schoolwork, books, toys, tools, and pencils belonging to an ADHD child may go missing.

A boy daydreams in class while other students work.

Inattention Symptoms in ADHD

A child with ADHD may have trouble ignoring outside stimulation including lights, noise, and activity going on around them.

Girl has forgotten how to do an assignment in class.

Inattention Symptoms in ADHD

A child with ADHD may forget things easily.

ADHD Symptoms: Hyperactivity

What is hyperactivity?

Hyperactivity is a feature of ADHD that refers to an abundance of physical energy and too much activity. Read on to learn about symptoms of hyperactivity.

A boy fidgets with his hands in his mouth.

Hyperactivity Symptoms in ADHD

ADHD children may squirm in their seat and have trouble sitting still. Fidgeting is another way hyperactivity manifests in ADHD children.

A girl is not happy about having to stay in her seat during class.

Hyperactivity Symptoms in ADHD

Sitting may be intolerable for ADHD children. They may get up out of their seat at school or at other times when there is an expectation to remain seated.

A girl yells while climbing on playground equipment.

Hyperactivity Symptoms in ADHD

ADHD children may run around or climb on objects at inappropriate times.

A boy intentionally ruins a game of chess by knocking pieces over.

Hyperactivity Symptoms in ADHD

Quiet activities such as reading or playing a board game may be difficult for an ADHD child to engage in.

A girl talks excessively to another girl while in class.

Hyperactivity Symptoms in ADHD

ADHD children are often non-stop talkative.

ADHD Symptoms: Impulsivity

What is impulsivity?

Impulsivity is a defining feature of ADHD that refers to acting without regard to consequences. Read on to learn about symptoms of impulsivity.

A girl raises her hand and yells out an answer in class.

Impulsivity Symptoms in ADHD

A child with ADHD may interrupt others to answer a question before it's been asked.

A boy is not happy about having to wait his turn.

Impulsivity Symptoms in ADHD

ADHD children have trouble taking turns. They may find it difficult or unbearable to wait their turn while playing a game or doing other activities.

A boy interrupts another boy in a classroom.

Impulsivity Symptoms in ADHD

An ADHD child may interrupt the conversations and activities of others.

A doctor talks to a boy with ADHD.

Early recognition is key to treatment of ADHD

Early diagnosis and treatment of ADHD increases the possibility of long-term success for children with the condition. It can be difficult to diagnose ADHD because many of the symptoms are considered "normal" in very young, non-ADHD children. Symptoms in these children eventually go away. The symptoms of ADHD also mimic those of other conditions. A thorough evaluation by a skilled health care professional is necessary to diagnose ADHD. A parent or teacher who suspects ADHD in a child should recommend that child for an evaluation right away.



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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • National Institute of Mental Health: "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)."
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