Does Your Child Have ADHD?

Does Your Child Have ADHD?

This article is for parents and guardians of children with diagnosed or suspected attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anyone who wants to learn more about ADHD. The goal of this patient education activity is to help parents and guardians to engage in shared decision-making with their child’s doctor about ADHD.

You will learn about:

  • What ADHD is

  • ADHD symptoms

  • How ADHD in children is diagnosed

  • Making a plan with your doctor

  • Support to help with ADHD

  • Questions to ask your doctor

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Test Your Knowledge

What Is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition that affects how the nervous system develops and leads to changes in how the brain works.

ADHD symptoms include:

  • Inattention, or a hard time paying attention

  • Impulsiveness, or acting before thinking

  • Hyperactivity, or too much activity or restlessness

The exact cause of ADHD is not known. Several factors may be involved, such as genetics (ADHD that’s inherited or runs in families), someone’s environment growing up, or the way someone’s nervous system works.

ADHD in Kids

ADHD can happen in children, teens, and adults and can be diagnosed at any age. ADHD in children is usually diagnosed at age 7 or 8. But symptoms can appear as early as age 3.

Short attention spans and a lot of activity are typical parts of childhood for most kids. But for those with ADHD, behavior is extreme and not appropriate for their age.

ADHD can affect a child’s daily activities and impact life at home and in school. It can affect their ability to do homework, follow rules, and have good relationships with family and friends.

ADHD Symptoms and Your Child

When it comes to ADHD, different children can have different symptoms. And not every child will have every symptom.

There are 3 main types of ADHD, each with symptoms that can appear in children in certain ways:

  • Inattentive

    ○ Trouble paying attention or listening, concentrating, and focusing

    ○ Difficulty following or understanding instructions

    ○ Making careless mistakes, losing things

    ○ Frequently distracted or forgetful

  • Hyperactive-impulsive

    ○ Acting without thinking

    ○ Too active and may fidget, squirm, have a hard time staying seated, or run or climb at inappropriate times

    ○ Talking too much or out of turn (interrupting), trouble playing quietly

  • Combined, with symptoms of inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. This is the most common type of ADHD

Not all ADHD symptoms are listed here. Be sure to ask your child’s doctor about what symptoms they may have.

Diagnosing ADHD in Kids

There is no laboratory test for ADHD. A doctor -- such as your pediatrician or a child psychologist or psychiatrist -- will make a diagnosis based on questions they ask you and your child about daily behaviors. They will also get feedback from your child’s school about their ability to pay attention and levels of activity and impulsiveness. Your doctor will also look at your child’s and family’s medical history.

To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must have symptoms for at least 6 months. Symptoms should also appear before age 12.

Making a Plan With Your Child's Doctor

You and your child’s doctor will make an ADHD treatment plan. This can include medicine, behavioral treatment or therapy, education, and getting support.

There is no cure for ADHD, so the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Treatment can help improve your child’s functioning at home, school, and in social situations.

Before treatment, your doctor will do a full evaluation to make the diagnosis and check for other conditions. Children with ADHD often have other conditions, such as a learning disability, anxiety, or depression. Knowing the whole picture can help find the best treatment plan.

Tracking Your Child’s ADHD Symptoms

Tracking and recording your child’s symptoms can help manage their ADHD and treatment. Keeping a diary on a computer, tablet, or smartphone -- or in a journal -- can be useful. You can make sure your child is taking their medicine at the right time and keep track of therapy and other appointments. You can also record any changes in behavior and their health.

A diary or tracker will be valuable during doctor’s visits. It can help your doctor find out which treatments are working and which ones may need to be changed. This is especially important as most children don’t “outgrow” ADHD, but their symptoms may change over time.

Support Is Available

Support is available to help you and your child with ADHD.

School can work with you and your doctor to support your child’s learning. Open communication with school staff can be a key to success. If your child needs to take medicine during school, be sure to contact the school in advance to make proper arrangements.

Other ways of support include:

  • Joining a support group

  • Seeking help from your own doctor if you’re feeling depressed, frustrated, or exhausted

  • Working together with everyone who watches your child -- such as relatives and babysitters -- so they know how to handle behaviors

  • Finding out if you have ADHD, since it can be inherited

Questions to Ask Your Child’s Doctor

Speaking with your child’s doctor regularly is important. Be sure to keep appointments, and don’t skip or change your child’s treatment without checking with their doctor first.

Questions you can ask about ADHD include:

  • How will my child be diagnosed?

  • What symptoms should I look for?

  • How can I track and record symptoms?

  • Are there other conditions that may be causing symptoms?

  • What types of treatment would be best?

  • What medicines are available and what are their side effects?

  • Are there lifestyle changes we should make?

  • What should I do if I feel stressed?

  • Are there resources, tools, or other support available?

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View Additional Materials

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

What is ADHD?

Protecting the Health of Children with ADHD

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Authors and Disclosures

Clinician Reviewer

Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD

Senior Director, Learning & Development, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Senior Scientific Content Manager, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


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