Common Signs of ADHD in Children

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • Kids using tablet
    When Is It ADHD?
    If you have kids, you know they can have trouble sitting still, resisting the urge to break the rules, or finishing a chore like making the bed. But does this mean they have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
  • boy-having-lunch-in-school-cafeteria
    Disrupting Daily Life
    Not paying attention, running around when asked to stay put, even meltdowns at the grocery store--all kids misbehave from time to time. But ADHD in children is more than just misbehavior. When these behaviors carry on for months, are unusually intense for the child's age, and hamper his or her ability to get along at school or home, there may be a problem.
  • Fun times at recess
    Troubling Behavior Patterns
    ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders, affecting 3 to 5 percent of U.S. kids--more often boys than girls. It's a pattern of three key behaviors: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  • girl sad in class
    Loss of Focus
    Does your child forget or lose things like homework or toys? Does he or she get bored with something, even after only a few minutes? These are signs of inattention. Symptoms of inattention may also include:

    • Trouble following instructions

    • Being easily distracted

    • Struggling to focus on one thing and often jumping from one activity to another

    • Daydreaming or seemingly not listening when spoken to

  • Young boy jumping on couch
    Excess Energy
    Fidgety hands and feet, squirming bodies, and motor mouths--all are noticeable signs of hyperactivity, another key symptom of ADHD. You may also notice:

    • Constant motion, including running and climbing in the wrong place and at the wrong time

    • Problems playing quietly

    • Trouble sitting still and staying seated

  • African American male pediatrician smiling with young African American boy patient
    Patience Problems
    If you've gotten reports back from teachers that your child has trouble being patient or waiting turns, this could signal impulsivity, a third symptom of ADHD. Blurting out answers and comments and often interrupting others are also signs. Acting without thinking about consequences and not being able to keep emotions in check could be additional cues that your child is struggling with ADHD.
  • Faces of ADHD
    Faces of ADHD
    There are three forms of ADHD, each determined by which symptoms most affect the individual. The three types:

    • Predominantly inattentive

    • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive

    • Combined

  • Serious Child
    Missing the Mark
    The predominantly inattentive type may be easy to overlook. Children with this type of ADHD mostly have symptoms from the inattentive category, meaning they may sit quietly, unnoticed, but are not listening to details, following instructions, or finishing tasks. Because children with this type are less likely to have trouble interacting with others and acting out is less common, parents or teachers may not recognize this type of ADHD.
  • Young Asian American boy staring up close at fidget spinner on table
    The Squeaky Wheel
    Fidgety and restless, impulsive and constantly on-the-go--the hyperactive-impulsive type is more easily recognized. The majority of symptoms for this type come from the hyperactivity and impulsivity categories. Take note of excessive talking, interrupting, snatching things away, and talking out of turn. This type may also be more prone to accidents and injuries.
  • Young African American boy smiling on playground swing with father pushing him
    Combined Symptoms
    The combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive type is--you guessed it--a combination of the other two categories. Symptoms of the two categories are equally present in this type, which accounts for most cases of ADHD in children.
  • Happy family outdoors, grilling dinner
    How You Can Help
    Talk with your child's doctor if you suspect he or she is struggling with this common disorder. No single test can pinpoint ADHD, just as no single behavior is indicative of the disorder. A health professional will need to analyze your child's behavior, environment, and other factors to rule out other possible causes.
Common Signs of ADHD in Children
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 19
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.