If you suspect that your youngster has ADHD, it might help to ask yourself some questions about his/her behavior. In fact, if you've talked with your doctor about your youngster's behavior, your doctor may have already asked you some of these questions:
1. Am I primarily angry with my youngster or am I primarily frustrated? It's normal for moms and dads to get irritated and even to get angry with their kids from time to time. Most moms and dads can sense when their kids misbehave on purpose. The hyperactivity of kids with ADHD is irritating, but moms and dads can sense that their youngster simply can't (as opposed to won't) sit still or quiet down. This is frustrating.
2. Can my youngster stick to activities, or is the house littered with a trail of unfinished games and projects? Kids with ADHD often lose interest in an activity in five minutes or less. They go from one activity to another. You may ask your youngster many times to clean up, but he/she will not even be able to focus long enough to do that!
3. Has disciplining my youngster worked? Moms and dads of ADHD kids usually have "tried everything" …from ignoring their youngster's misbehavior …to "time-outs" …to spanking – but nothing seems to work.
4. How long has my youngster been too active? Hyperactive ADHD kids have had problems with hyperactive, impulsive behavior since before age six. Mothers of ADHD kids sometimes even remember that their baby was hyperactive in the womb. Also, kids with ADHD are often described by their moms and dads as being fussy and difficult to quiet in infancy. Sustained restlessness, even when eating or at bedtime, is characteristic of these kids.
5. Is my youngster's restlessness and impulsivity a problem in several different settings? ADHD is less likely to be present if your youngster only shows behavioral problems at home, but not in other places (e.g., school, grocery store, etc.). ADHD problems often become worse in settings where there is more activity and noise.
6. My youngster can watch cartoons on television for a long time. Does this rule out ADHD? Kids with ADHD are often able to keep their attention on the fast-paced world of cartoons and video games. If your youngster's attention stays glued to the screen for programs such as cartoons, suspect ADHD. Often, such kids will keep their eyes on the screen, but will be constantly fidgeting their legs and arms.
7. When my youngster is misbehaving, is he off in a world of his own or is he looking over his shoulder to see if I'm watching him? Kids with ADHD can’t control at least some of their hyperactive, impulsive behavior. Suspect ADHD if your youngster appears "off in a world of his own" and does not respond to you when, for example, he is climbing on a table, jumping on the sofa or misbehaving in some other way. Kids who misbehave on purpose often will look over their shoulders to see how grown-ups react to their misbehavior. You can tell by the look on your youngster's face.
It might be hard for your doctor to tell if your youngster has ADHD, particularly if he is not hyperactive. For this reason, the doctor may want you and your youngster to see someone who has a great deal of experience working with ADD/ADHD (since there are many conditions that can look like ADD/ADHD). Many kids with ADHD aren't hyperactive, and those who are may not be hyperactive in the doctor's office. Information about your youngster's behavior needs to be collected from different people who know him/her, including your youngster's teachers or anyone else who is familiar with his/her behavior.
Kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, may have signs of hyperactive behavior, a lack of attention and difficulty concentrating.
Signs of hyperactive behavior:
• Always "on the go"
• Always playing too loudly
• Blurting out answers to questions in school
• Cutting in line or unable to wait for a turn in activities
• Fidgeting and restlessness, almost constantly
• Interrupting others
• Not sitting in the same seat for any length of time
• Running or climbing inappropriately
• Talking too much
Signs of a lack of attention:
• Appearing disorganized
• Appearing very distractible
• Being forgetful
• Being unable to plan ahead effectively
• Difficulty following instructions
• Frequently losing things needed for school or at home
• Not being able to focus attention on activities
• Not being able to pay attention to details
• Not seeming to listen to moms and dads or teachers
Most kids with ADHD show signs of both hyperactivity and attention problems. Some kids, though, may have only signs of inattention. They may have trouble concentrating and paying attention, but they may not show signs of hyperactivity. This kind of problem used to be called attention-deficit disorder (ADD). ADD is now thought of as a form of ADHD.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents