ADHD symptoms in children

Learn the Core ADHD Symptoms in Children

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Learn about the core symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. If they sound like your child, remember only a doctor or other healthcare provider can diagnose ADHD.

List of ADHD symptoms

3 Core Symptoms of ADHD

1 Inattention
2 Impulsivity
3 Hyperactivity

This list is an overview of what these symptoms may look like in children. It is not a diagnostic tool.

Symptoms of inattention

  • Often makes careless mistakes and lacks attention to details
    Example: overlooking or missing details or handing in homework that is inaccurate
  • Often has difficulty paying attention to tasks or while playing
    Example: difficulty remaining focused during class, conversations, or lengthy readings
  • Often seems to not listen when spoken to directly
    Example: mind seems elsewhere, 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 or dislikes schoolwork or homework
  • Often loses things
    Example: loses school materials or, if older, wallets, keys, glasses, or phone
  • Often easily distracted
  • 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
  • Often leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
    Example: leaves their place in the classroom or in other situations that require remaining seated
  • Often runs or climbs where it is inappropriate or feels restless
  • Often unable to play quietly or, if older, participate in leisurely activities
  • Often acts as if “on the go" or “driven by a motor”
    Example: is unable or uncomfortable being still for an extended time 
  • Often talks excessively
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been fully asked
    Example: completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for next turn in conversation
  • Often has difficulty waiting his or her turn
    Example: trouble waiting in line
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others
    Examples: butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission
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How ADHD may appear in different 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.

At home

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

At work or school

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

Social situations

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

Symptoms must occur often.

Please note: This is not a diagnostic tool. Only a healthcare provider can accurately diagnose ADHD. Be sure to review the full list of ADHD symptoms and talk with your child's doctor.

ADHD symptoms may appear differently over time

For some children, ADHD may go away as they get older. For others, though, it may not. If your child's ADHD does not go away, some ADHD symptoms may become less noticeable as he or she ages—although the symptoms are just as important to identify.

As ADHD may persist from childhood into adolescence, symptoms of hyperactivity in children, such as climbing or running excessively, are less common and may appear in teens as fidgetiness or an inner feeling of restlessness. Teens may also continue to struggle with impulsivity as they get older.

According to parent reports, 1 in every 2 children with ADHD continued to experience ADHD symptoms into adulthood.

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