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WHAT IS ADHD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a treatable, neurodevelopmental disorder found in kids, teens, and adults

ADHD affects millions of children

ADHD is defined as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Its core symptoms are inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Between 60% and 85% of kids (ages 6-12) diagnosed with ADHD may continue to have ADHD as teens (ages 13-17), although the symptoms may look different as your child gets older. (See "Questions" below, which provide specific examples of what this change may look like.) These symptoms can affect them at home, at school, and in social situations. For a diagnosis of ADHD, symptoms must occur often, and be present in two or more settings.

Interested in learning more about ADHD symptoms in children? Read on.

3 Core Symptoms of ADHD

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

Symptoms of Inattention

Symptoms must occur OFTEN.

  • Makes careless mistakes and lacks attention to details
    Example: overlooking or missing details, or handing in homework that is inaccurate
  • Has difficulty paying attention to tasks or while playing
    Example: difficulty remaining focused during class, conversations, or lengthy readings
  • Seems to not listen when spoken to directly
    Example: mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of obvious distraction
  • Fails to follow through on instructions, schoolwork, or chores
    Example: starts tasks, but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
    Example: messy, disorganized work; poor time management
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to participate in tasks requiring sustained mental effort
    Example: avoids or dislikes schoolwork or homework
  • Loses things
    Example: loses school materials or, if older, wallets, keys, glasses, or phone
  • Easily distracted
  • Forgetful in daily activities
    Example: may forget to complete chores

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

Symptoms must occur OFTEN.

  • Fidgets with or taps hands and feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
    Example: leaves their place in the classroom or in other situations that require remaining seated
  • Runs or climbs where it is inappropriate, or feels restless
  • Unable to play quietly or, if older, participate in leisurely activities
  • Acts as if “on the go” or “driven by a motor”
    Example: is unable or uncomfortable being still for an extended time
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out an answer before a question has been fully asked
    Example: completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for next turn in conversation
  • Has difficulty waiting his or her turn
    Example: has trouble waiting in line
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others
    Examples: butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission

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 occur often, and be present in two or more settings.

ADHD can appear in different settings

ADHD at home icon

AT HOME

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

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
ADHD in social situtations icon

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.

Questions you may have about ADHD in children

  • Only a healthcare provider can accurately diagnose ADHD. If you are concerned your child might have ADHD, make an appointment with your child’s doctor. To help prepare for the appointment, complete the Doctor Discussion Guide and bring it with you to the doctor’s office.

  • Medications do not cure ADHD. But they may be able to help people with ADHD control the hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive symptoms of ADHD. Medicine may not be right for everyone with ADHD. If medicine is prescribed, it may be used as part of a total treatment plan for ADHD that could include counseling and other therapies. Learn more about Vyvanse as a treatment option for ADHD.

  • Some ADHD symptoms may become less noticeable as he or she ages. 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.

Talking to your child's doctor icon

When it's time to talk to your child's doctor

It all starts with an open and honest conversation about your child’s health. This Doctor Discussion Guide can help. A couple things to remember, this discussion guide is not a diagnostic tool. Only a doctor or other healthcare provider can diagnose ADHD.

DOCTOR DISCUSSION GUIDE