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14 Signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex mental health disorder that can affect your child’s success at school as well as their relationships. The symptoms of ADHD vary and are sometimes difficult to recognize.

Many of the individual symptoms of ADHD are customary for any child to experience. So, to make a diagnosis of ADHD, your child’s doctor will need to evaluate your child using several criteria. ADHD is generally diagnosed in children by the time they’re teenagers, with the average age of diagnosis being . Older children exhibiting symptoms may have ADHD, but they’ve often exhibited rather elaborate symptoms early in life. (For information about ADHD symptoms in adults, this article can help.)

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Here are 14 common signs of ADHD in children.

1. Self-focused behavior

A common sign of ADHD is what looks like an inability to recognize other people’s needs and desires. This can lead to the next two signs.

2. Interrupting

Self-focused behavior may cause a child with ADHD to interrupt others while they’re talking or butt into conversations or games they’re not part of.

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3. Trouble waiting their turn

Kids with ADHD may have trouble waiting their turn during classroom activities or when playing games with other children.

4. Emotional turmoil

A child with ADHD may have trouble keeping their emotions in check. They may have outbursts of anger at inappropriate times. Younger children may have temper tantrums.

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5. Fidgetiness

Children with ADHD often can’t sit still. They may try to get up and run around, fidget, or squirm in their chair when forced to sit.

6. Problems playing quietly

Fidgetiness can make it difficult for kids with ADHD to play quietly or engage calmly in leisure activities.

7. Unfinished tasks

A child with ADHD may show interest in lots of different things, but they may have problems finishing them. For example, they may start projects, chores, or homework, but move on to the next thing that catches their interest before finishing.

8. Lack of focus

A child with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, even when someone is speaking directly to them. They’ll say they heard you, but they won’t be able to repeat back to you what you just said.

9. Avoidance of tasks needing extended mental effort

This same lack of focus can cause a child to avoid activities that require a sustained mental effort, such as paying attention in class or doing homework.

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10. Mistakes

Children with ADHD can have trouble following instructions that require planning or executing a plan. This can then lead to careless mistakes, but it doesn’t indicate laziness or a lack of intelligence.

11. Daydreaming

Children with ADHD aren’t always rambunctious and loud. Another sign of ADHD is being quieter and less involved than other kids. A child with ADHD may stare into space, daydream, and ignore what’s going on around them.

12. Trouble getting organized

A child with ADHD may have trouble keeping track of tasks and activities. This may cause problems at school, as they can find it hard to prioritize homework, school projects, and other assignments.

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13. Forgetfulness

Kids with ADHD may be forgetful in daily activities. They may forget to do chores or their homework. They may also lose things often, such as toys.

14. Symptoms in multiple settings

A child with ADHD will show symptoms of the condition in more than one setting. For instance, they may show lack of focus both in school and at home.

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Looking forward

All children are going to exhibit some of these behaviors at some point. However, you should start thinking about the next steps if:

  • your child regularly displays signs of ADHD
  • this behavior is affecting their success in school and leading to negative interactions with their peers

ADHD is treatable. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, review all of the treatment options. Then, set up a time to meet with a doctor or psychologist to determine the best course of action. 

Article resources
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (2016).
  • Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Symptoms and diagnosis. (2016).
  • Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Treatment recommendations. (2017).  
  • Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Data & statistics. (2017).
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