ADHD Symptoms and Treatment in Children

August 17, 2020
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The Basics of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children

ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurological disorder that causes several symptoms, among them the attention deficit and hyperactivity it is named for. ADHD is common in both children and adults, and often underreported in girls and women.

The Symptoms of ADHD

If you suspect that you or a loved one have ADHD, you may have noticed some of the following symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Inattention
  • Impulsivity


This symptom is often the first noticeable sign of ADHD in little boys, and even though this symptom might be observed already in preschool, ADHD will usually manifest a little later before middle school. Hyperactivity may vary with age, and not all ADHD children display this symptom, but those who do will usually show it in the following ways:

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Excessive talking
  • Running or climbing in inappropriate situations
  • Always on the go
  • Fidgeting or squirming when sitting
  • Constant motion and jumping on furniture
  • Difficulty with activities that require sitting still, such as story time
  • Trouble playing quietly

School-age Children

  • Excessive talking
  • Fidgeting or squirming when sitting
  • Always on the go
  • Trouble with quiet activities

Teens and adults

  • Restlessness (in teens)
  • Trouble with activities that require sitting still


This symptom is often more prevalent in girls and women, and is sometimes blamed for the underreporting of ADHD of girls. For a while professionals referred to ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) as separate disorders. Sometimes this symptom isn’t as noticeable except when children are in school, or for adults in social situations and work.

Inattention may look like:

  • Procrastination
  • Not completing homework or chores on time, or at all
  • Moving frequently between tasks
  • Putting in a lot of effort, but with little to show for it at the end of the day
  • Disorganization Forgetful about daily activities such as appointments
  • Not following common social rules
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Trouble staying on topic while talking
  • Not listening
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Lacking focus
  • Sloppy work
  • Messy homes
  • Easily distracted by noises or things easily ignored by others
  • Carelessness


While impulsivity is common in all children, children with ADHD may display this symptoms to a larger degree than their peers, and adults with ADHD will display impulsivity that is uncommon in adults.

Impulsivity may show up as:

  • Being impatient
  • Blurt out answers before the question is finished
  • Frequently interrupting others, causing difficulty in social settings or at work
  • Having a hard time waiting their turn
  • Finding it difficult to delay talking or reactions
  • Start conversations at inappropriate times
  • Frequently intruding on others to the point where it causes trouble at work or in social settings
  • Knocking over objects
  • Banging into people
  • Engaging in risky behavior without thinking about the consequences
  • Children may climb on things and put themselves in danger
  • Being accident prone

Download The ADHD Fact Sheet


The Difference Between ADHD and Common Childhood Behaviors

Many of these symptoms and manifestations may seem like common childhood behaviors, and they are. But in children with ADHD these behaviors will happen more often, at home, at school, when playing with friends. The symptoms of ADHD will make it difficult for a child to interact and function like other children their age do.

Older teens and adults with ADHD will often be heavily criticized for their behavior, or even seen as childish or lazy. Many older teens and adults will struggle to keep their symptoms from interfering with their daily lives or success at work or in school.

How to get an ADHD Diagnosis

If you believe you or a loved one may have ADHD, the first thing to do is to contact your primary care provider. Your doctor will look at the symptoms the person is displaying to see if they are typical for the person’s age or not. Many children climb on things without having ADHD, and many teens engage in risky behavior without their impulsivity being a symptom of ADHD.

The doctor will also attempt to judge whether or not the symptoms negatively impact the person’s ability to function in their daily lives, at work, in school or social settings. In order to get an ADHD diagnosis, the person must consistently, and over at least six months, display at least six of the ADHD symptoms above.

Looking at ADHD Long Term

Though hyperactivity might diminish as the child with ADHD grows older, inattention and impulsivity is also prevalent in adults with ADHD.

Some children with ADHD have other learning disabilities that ADHD treatment will not help, and it’s important that these children get appropriate help.

Children with ADHD are also at risk for developing oppositional-defiant disorder, depression, or anxiety disorder, especially as teens. When children or teens with ADHD experience demanding times at home or in school, their symptoms may worsen significantly.

In Closing

If you think you or a loved one have ADHD, talk to your doctor. ADHD is a lifelong neurological disorder and cannot be cured, but there are several ways to treat the symptoms, such as diet, coping skills, medications, and behavioral therapy. Many children and adults with ADHD who get appropriate treatment go on to lead happy and successful lives.

Causes of ADHD

Download The ADHD Fact Sheet



Educational and Training Options

School can be a major issue for people with ADHD. Paying attention, studying, and participating in class can all be very daunting. Special education is often provided, and educational specialists will help families and teachers create the best possible learning environment for the student.

There are training options for parents, families, and teachers intended to help people with ADHD. Parents are taught how to encourage their child. Learning how to respond to stress can also help parents calmly approach the behavior of their child. Interacting with other parents with similar issues can also provide the support parents and family members need.

Resource Information

You can find more information about ADHD from the CDC supported program, Children and Adults with Attention/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) online at You can also find information on these websites:

National Institute of Mental Health at and

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine) at