ADHD in Children

ADHD in Children

Learn about the core symptoms of ADHD in children


ADHD symptoms in children

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity (ADHD) is a condition with symptoms that include excessive restlessness, poor attention, and impulsive acts. There are three major presentations of ADHD: predominantly inattentive, in which children and adolescents have problems concentrating and focusing; predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, in which children and adolescents experience impulsivity and excess activity; and combined type, in which children and adolescents experience symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms of ADHD often continue into adulthood.

The reality: It is normal for children to have moments of inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity, but children with ADHD experience these symptoms to such a degree that daily functioning at home, school, and with peers is impacted.

Childhood ADHD

ADHD Facts:


ADHD is a treatable medical disorder. While the exact cause is not known, it may be caused by the reduction of neurotransmitters in the part of the brain controlling executive functioning and impulse control.


It is normal for children to have moments of inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity, but children with ADHD experience these symptoms to such a degree that daily functioning is impacted at home, school, and with peers.


As children with ADHD grow into adolescence, hyperactivity lessons yet they continue to have significant problems with disorganization, distraction, and poor impulse control.


ADHD runs in families and environmental factors may be involved. It is inherited at a rate of nearly 75%. Risk of developing ADHD is increased for children born to mothers who smoked cigarettes, consumed alcohol, or had mental health issues during pregnancy; children born prematurely or with low birth weight; and children suffering a brain injury or seizure disorder.


About 17 million people in the United States are affected by ADHD. To put that in context, the state population of Arizona is just over 7 million.

There are approximately

6.4 million

U.S. children between ages
5 to 17 years old are diagnosed with ADHD

one of the most common
childhood neurodevelopmental
disorders in America.

Symptoms of inattention

  • Often makes careless mistakes and lacks attention to details
    Example: making hasty decisions or not following directions
  • Often has difficulty paying attention to tasks or while playing
    Example: daydreaming in class, easily distracted
  • Often seems to not listen when spoken to directly
    Example: mind seems somewhere else, even in the absence of obvious distraction
  • Often fails to follow through on instructions, schoolwork or chores
    Example: starts tasks, but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
    Example: messy, disorganized work; poor time management
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to participate in tasks requiring sustained mental effort
    Example: avoids homework or chores, i.e. procrastinates
  • Often loses things
    Example: loses homework, folders, or backpacks
  • Often easily distracted
    Example: often goes off on tangents during conversations
  • Often forgetful in daily activities
    Example: may forget to complete chores

Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands and feet or squirms in seat
    Example: may also need to hold or fiddle with an object
  • Often leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
    Example: frequent requests to use the restroom to get out of class
  • Often runs or climbs where it is inappropriate or feels restless
    Example: gravitates toward risky play activities involving stunts
  • Often unable to play quietly or, if older, participate in leisurely activities
    Example: family tension due to constant activity
  • Often acts as if “on the go” or “driven by a motor”
    Example: uncomfortable being still for an extended time at restaurants, church, or movies
  • Often talks excessively
    Example: wants to “say it” or risk forgetting a thought
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been fully asked
    Example: completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for turn in conversation
  • Often has difficulty waiting his or her turn
    Example: trouble waiting in-line; limited patience; easily frustrated
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others
    Examples: intrudes on conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or getting permission

How ADHD may appear in different settings

may appear in

ADHD symptoms may affect children (ages 6-17) in school, at home, and/or in social situations. For a diagnosis of ADHD to be made, symptoms must be present in two or more settings.

ADHD symptoms may affect children (ages 6-17) in school, at home, and/or in social situations. For a diagnosis of ADHD to be made, symptoms must be present in two or more settings.


  • Fails to finish chores or homework
  • Loses things like homework, books, pencils, eyeglasses, wallets, and mobile phones
  • Difficulty doing leisure activities quietly


  • Trouble getting organized. For instance, has trouble keeping materials and belongings in order; poor time-management skills
  • Trouble sitting still, talking out of turn, or blurting out answers in school
  • Fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes


  • Difficulty waiting for his or her turn
  • Frequently interrupts or intrudes on others. For instance, he or she may butt into conversations
  • Talks excessively

Risks of not treating ADHD

  • Increased risk for failing grades and dropping out of high school and college
  • Behavior and discipline problems
  • Social difficulties and family strife
  • Accidental injury
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders
  • Employment problems
  • Driving accidents
  • Unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Delinquency, criminality, and arrest
Risks of not treating ADHD
Frequently Asked Questions
When can ADHD be diagnosed?

Most cases of ADHD are diagnosed when the child is 7 or 8 years old, but ADHD symptoms and impairment can be apparent as early as ages 3 to 5, when the child is in preschool or kindergarten. Girls are often identified later than boys. Bright children may not be diagnosed until later as they may compensate for their difficulties until school work and life demands get more challenging.

For children not treated early, their level of functioning declines when starting junior high and again in high school. They have difficulty with social distractions, time management the transitions between classes, and more demanding courses. This can be overwhelming and irritability, anxiety, and depression start to appear. We call these co-occurring conditions developing secondary to ADHD. With proper treatment, these clients regain focus and a sense of mental control, and as a result, the depression and anxiety quickly resolve.

Will my child grow out of ADHD?

For some children, ADHD may go away as they get older. For others, it may not. If your child’s ADHD does not go away, some ADHD symptoms may become more manageable or less noticeable.

As ADHD may persist from childhood into adolescence, symptoms of hyperactivity in children, such as talking excessively, butting into conversations, or running excessively tend to lesson as they mature and learn socially acceptable behaviors. In teens, untreated ADHD symptoms may present as an inner sense of restlessness, anxiety, and even depression.

How do I know if my child has ADHD and not something else?

A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation is required to ensure an accurate diagnosis by considering the presence of other co-occurring conditions that can exist with ADHD. Some frequent co-occurring conditions with ADHD present as defiance, lying, stealing, learning difficulties, anxiety, hopelessness, low self-esteem, depression, mood dysregulation, and excessive/extreme temper tantrums. The research has shown that for a child with ADHD, two-thirds have at least one other mental health disorder in their lifetimes.

What treatment options are available?

ADHD treatment depends on the child’s age and may include medication, parent training, behavioral therapy, coaching, and educational supports (IEP or 504 plan). Stimulant medication is first line treatment for ADHD, but the decision to start any medication will be thoroughly discussed and agreed upon by the provider, the parents, and the child. It’s important to weigh the risk and benefits of any medication.

Medications are not a cure for ADHD, but they may be able to help control the hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive symptoms of ADHD. Medication may not be right for everyone with ADHD, but it can play a vital role in the total treatment plan along with coaching and other therapies. 

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NEXT: Other Disorders in Children

Two-thirds or more of children diagnosed with ADHD have at least one additional mental health or learning disorder during their lifetimes.