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Childhood ADHD Symptoms at Every Age

Symptoms alone are not enough to make an ADHD diagnosis, but they are important warning signs that can help identify your child's problem and the appropriate treatment.  Generally speaking, ADHD symptoms are a cocktail of hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive behaviors.  The diagnosis is usually made if the symptoms have been present for six months in at least two different settings.  But did you know that ADHD symptoms tend to change with age? Here are some rough guidelines that can help you determine if your child needs to visit a specialist and be evaluated for ADHD.

The preschool years

ADHD can be detected as early as the preschool years, but what makes a diagnosis tricky is that kids in this age group are normally hyperactive and inattentive.   Symptoms of ADHD become a little more obvious when children start school and have to be present in a structured environment.  They may be unable to follow simple directions, stay seated, or wait for their turn.  They could be constantly talking, moving, and jumping from one activity to another.  Take note that a number of developmental disorders also share these symptoms, so make sure your child's doctor does a comprehensive evaluation instead of just checking a list of symptoms.  

The elementary school years

The symptoms of ADHD become even more evident in the school setting.  Kids with combined type ADHD and hyperactive ADHD tend to keep getting up from their seat, talk excessively, or blurt out answers in the middle of discussions.  Those with inattentive ADHD type are a lot more difficult to spot. They are usually well-behaved children with mediocre grades, often due to problems completing their homework or following directions.  They spend more time daydreaming in class than paying attention, and avoid tasks that require sustained concentration.  They may also be the messiest kids in the classroom.

The high school years

It's easy for ADHD to remain undetected throughout grade school; if the child is clever enough, he or she can manage to compensate for the symptoms.  However, high school presents a serious challenge for children with untreated ADHD because of the heavier workload and bigger responsibilities.  Not only does schoolwork become a serious problem, but ADHD in adolescence tends to be associated with other issues like low self-esteem, eating disorders, and dangerous behaviors like drug experimentation and casual sex.  Since it is difficult for parents to spot the difference between common adolescent mood swings and ADHD symptoms, get professional help if you notice major changes in mood, socialization, and school performance.