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Spotting the Signs of Attention Deficit Disorder

written by: Lynn-nore Chittom • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 12/10/2010

Spotting the signs of attention deficit disorder in yourself or your own children can be challenging. This article helps to break down early signs in children and identify typical signals that may have been missed in adults.

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    Early Signs of Attention Deficit Disorder

    While doctors do not always feel comfortable diagnosing ADHD in toddlers and young children, parents often see signs long before the disorder is diagnosed and treated. At home, in social settings, and in preschool, children with ADHD exhibit recognizable differences from their peers.

    Young children with ADHD are often overly active and constantly on the go. Parents may hear comments such as "How do you keep up with your son? (or daughter)" or "I bet you're exhausted." Young children with ADHD run loose whenever they can, regardless of the location, such as after church, in restaurants, in grocery stores, and other settings. Young children with ADHD may have extreme difficulties in situations which require patience such as the doctor's office waiting area or exam room. They may want to inappropriately climb on furniture in their surroundings or roll across the floor.

    Parents of young children with ADHD may find themselves constantly trying to stay a step ahead of their active little ones. In preschool, these children frequently get up from their seat and move around the classroom. They may blurt out answers or have difficulty waiting their turn. Some preschoolers with ADHD, particularly boys, may begin to experience behavioral problems including aggression toward other students or resistance to authority. All of these experiences may be put down to normal active healthy child behaviors but if they persist, they might actually be signs of attention deficit disorder, particularly ADHD Primarily Hyperactive Type.

    Young children who may later be diagnosed with ADHD Primarily Inattentive Type will also begin to exhibit symptoms at an early age. Primary symptoms of this type of ADHD include distractibility and hyperfocus. These children often appear to be ignoring adults when spoken to and may be frequently found daydreaming. They may spend hours focused on a certain type of toy or activity, but respond poorly to directions.

    Similarly, many children with ADHD have developmental delays that appear to coincide with maturity levels. They may jump from not being able to do something to suddenly being able to do it, reaching milestone times later than expected. This may include fine motor skills, the ability to follow complex directions, potty training and speaking in sentences. Preschool children with ADHD frequently have difficulties understanding how to relate to other children in common settings such as play dates and in the playground as they are immature in regard to social cues. These situations can often lead to hurt feelings and frustration for young children with ADHD.

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    Signs of ADHD in Adults

    The signs of attention deficit disorder in adults are very different from those in children. Adults with ADHD often have difficulties remaining still. While they do not move around a room the way a child might, they often tap their fingers or feet or seem to be constantly in motion. Impulsivity in decision making and in hobbies which involve danger are other common symptoms among adults. Adults with ADHD may struggle with from low self-esteem, employment problems and relationship issues based on any number of the following related symptoms:

    • Procrastination
    • Chronic tardiness
    • Forgetfulness
    • Substance abuse
    • Difficulty controlling anger
    • Mood swings
    • Depression
    • Boredom
    • Poor organizational skills
    • Hyperfocus on areas of interest while ignoring other tasks

    Adults who have not been diagnosed with ADHD may benefit from reading material on ADHD in children as they may relate it to their own childhoods. ADHD is not a disease with an adult on-set element; therefore adults with ADHD were once children with ADHD.