When many people think of ADHD, they picture an out-of-control kid in constant motion, bouncing off the walls and disrupting everyone around. But this is not the only possible picture. Some children with ADD/ADHD are hyperactive, while others sit quietly (with their attention miles away). Some put too much focus on a task and have trouble shifting it to something else. Others are only mildly inattentive but overly impulsive.
The 3 primary characteristics of ADD / ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The signs and symptoms a child with ADD / ADHD has depends on which characteristics predominate. Children with ADD / ADHD may be:
- Inattentive, but not hyperactive or impulsive.
- Hyperactive and impulsive, but able to pay attention.
- Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive (the most common form of ADHD).
Children who only have inattentive symptoms of ADD / ADHD are often overlooked, since they’re not disruptive. However, the symptoms of inattention have consequences: getting in hot water with parents and teachers for not following directions; underperforming in school; and clashing with other kids over not playing by the rules.
Inattentive signs and symptoms of ADD / ADHD
Symptoms of inattention in children:
- Doesn’t pay attention to details or makes careless mistakes
- Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
- Appears not to listen when spoken to
- Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
- Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
- Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items
- Children with ADD / ADHD can pay attention when they’re doing things they enjoy or hearing about topics in which they’re interested. But when the task is repetitive or boring, they quickly tune out.
Not paying close enough attention is another common problem. Children with ADD / ADHD often bounce from task to task without completing any of them, or skip necessary steps in procedures. Organizing their schoolwork and their time is harder for them than it is for most children. Kids with ADD / ADHD also have trouble concentrating if there are things going on around them; they usually need a calm, quiet environment in order to sustain attention.
Hyperactive signs and symptoms of ADD / ADHD
Symptoms of hyperactivity in children:
- Constantly fidgets and squirms
- Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
- Moves around constantly, often running or climbing inappropriately
- Talks excessively, has difficulty playing quietly
- Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
- The most obvious sign of ADD / ADHD is hyperactivity. While many children are naturally quite active, kids with hyperactive symptoms of ADD / ADHD are always moving.
They may try to do several things at once, bouncing around from one activity to the next. Even when forced to sit still
- which can be very difficult for them – their foot is tapping, their leg is shaking, or their fingers are drumming.
- Impulsivity signs and symptoms of ADD / ADHD
- Symptoms of impulsivity in children:
- Blurts out answers without waiting to be called on hear the whole question
- Has difficulty waiting for his or her turn
- Often interrupts others
- Intrudes on other people’s conversations or games
- Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums
- The impulsivity of children with ADD / ADHD can cause problems with self-control.
Because they censor themselves less than other kids do, they’ll interrupt conversations, invade other people’s space, ask irrelevant questions in class, make tactless observations, and ask overly personal questions. Children with impulsive signs and symptoms of ADD / ADHD also tend to be moody and to overreact emotionally. As a result, others may start to view the child as disrespectful, weird, or needy.