10 Signs of Childhood ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is known as a condition that involves difficulty paying attention, excessive amounts of energy, and an inability to control behavior that interferes with functioning or development. For children diagnosed with this mental disorder, their symptoms usually become apparent between the ages of six and twelve.

For doctors to determine the presence of this disorder, they typically look for symptoms that last at least six months and manifest themselves in two or more different settings – for example at home, school, after school activities, or Grandma’s.

It is important to seek out a doctor if you believe your child has ADHD. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common symptoms and we’ll briefly discuss the medical treatments you can expect.

A few statistics

ADHD is possibly the most studied childhood mental disorder. Despite this attention, physicians have not yet determined its cause. Two different tests exist to help determine the presence of ADHD: the DSM-IV and the ICD-10 tests.

ADHD is found in roughly 5-7% of those tested by the DSM-IV, whereas the ICD-10 test identifies 1-2% positively. ADHD occurs about three times more frequently in boys and the World Health Organization believes that, as of 2013, about 39 million people struggle with ADHD worldwide.

Somewhere between 30-50% of ADHD positive children experience symptoms into adulthood. Once development is complete, that number drops to between 2-5%.


Treatment for ADHD differs from country to country, and even doctor to doctor, but most include some combination of medication, counseling, and lifestyle alterations.

When it comes to lifestyle, encouraging children to increase their physical exercise, specifically aerobics, has been found to improve behavior, motor abilities, executive functions, information processing, and memory. Anxiety, depression and physical ailments have also been found to be helped by increased exercise.

Studies regarding diet have found that some (less than 1/3) cases of ADHD are improved by eating less processed or artificially dyed foods. Studies regarding other elimination diets have had little success.

In regards to medication, children diagnosed with ADHD are typically prescribed stimulants, usually a form of Methylphenidate. Use of medication reduces symptoms of 80% of ADHD cases, at least in the short term. Longer-term studies have remained largely inconclusive.

Ten signs of ADHD in children

Many children demonstrate one or several of the following behaviors throughout their lifetimes. Remember, this does not necessarily mean that they have ADHD. If you find, however, that these symptoms last longer than six months and occur in more than one setting, you may want to consult a doctor.

1. Trouble paying attention

This is the number one symptom for a reason. Trouble paying attention will take a toll on your child’s ability to succeed in school and develop relationships with other children and adults. While children’s brains are constantly developing, this tendency will be fairly clear to identify. If your child struggles to maintain focus for more than a few minutes, even while playing or doing activities they tend to enjoy, it could be a sign of ADHD.

2. Constantly distracted

This naturally follows the previous symptom. For children, the world is a stimulating experience, with new sights and sounds around every corner. If a child cannot help but turn their attention towards any new thing that enters their perception, they may simply be highly curious. If this sign manifests along with others, however, you may wish to consult a doctor.

3. Lack of eye contact

Maintaining eye contact is one of the most basic tools we learn as humans to let another person know we are conversing with them. For some kids, not being able to maintain eye contact is simply an awkwardness often associated with development and puberty. For others, however, it represents an inability to focus on a conversation and may be a sign of ADHD.

4. Appear not to listen when spoken to

Beyond their inability to maintain eye-contact, children with ADHD, particularly severe forms, may not respond when spoken to, or even appear to have listened or understood at all. When children exhibit this behavior, it tends to drive parents up the wall quicker than any other symptom of ADHD.

Understand that many children simply cannot help it. If this behavior persists in your child, you should consult with a physician.

5. High levels of focus on a few things

While it’s true that children with ADHD might not be able to maintain focus overall, clinical researchers have determined that many of them can sustain focus on certain things. It may take the form of an obsession with television, video games, or even books. The activity that holds their attention strongly will differ child to child.

Many parents make the mistake of taking this as a sure-fire sign that their kids are not ADHD positive. This is not necessarily true, and if your child displays other signs mentioned here over a long period of time, it’s generally a good idea to get them checked out just in case.

6. Constant movement and energy

This is one of the crucial signs of ADHD. Many children are constantly tapping a foot, playing with something, or fidgeting in some other way that takes their attention from the task at hand.

When trying to determine whether the wild, hyper energy your child exhibits is normal, the thing to look for is a break in this behavior. Typical children will have waves of energy broken up by periods of calmness and rest. If your child seems to have energy 24/7, even if that means something as simple as not being able to sit still for a few minutes, you may wish to contact a pediatrician.

7. Disinterest in activities that involve physical touch

Particularly before adolescence, children still typically enjoy cuddling, sitting on their parents’ laps, or other forms of calm physical interaction. A child with ADHD, however, will not be able to remain at rest for any given period and, for this reason, will shun the activity.

Parents are often confused by this behavior and take it personally, as a sign of dismissal. If your child exhibits this behavior, take a step back and realize that they may simply be unable to remain at rest long enough for physical affection due to their ADHD.

8. Inability to calm down

Either in happiness or anger, everyone has seen a child become worked up into an excited state where rationality and reason have no place. Like some of these symptoms, most children will exhibit this behavior at some point during childhood. What separates a child with ADHD is their inability to come down from this excited state and be calm.

9. Trouble sleeping and staying asleep all night

This is another major symptom that can signify ADHD and should be carefully monitored. When a child cannot control their energy, they will also find it difficult to shut down for the night. Continued issues with getting a full night’s sleep will not only leave your child irritable, it may also cause other symptoms to get worse.

10. Tendency to blurt out whatever is on their mind

Children with ADHD struggle to keep track of conversations and follow what is going on. This also means that they will find it difficult, when speaking themselves, to even have a conversation or follow a logical argument. Their speech is characterized by sudden, random outbursts that exhibit no mental filter.

These are ten indications that your child may have ADHD. Remember, all children will display these signs at some point in their lives. If you find, however, that, during the ages of six to twelve, your child exhibits one or more of these for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.

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