ADHD Signs and Symptoms

In today's society, ADHD is a diagnosis most parents have heard about, but may or may not know much about. Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, affects approximately 3-5% of children in the U.S. A child with ADHD struggles with organizational skills, socialization, and poor impulse control. Knowing the signs, symptoms, and treatment options will help you the parent to make informed choices for your child's care.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder is a disorder that's primary symptoms are inattentiveness, poor impulse control, and/or hyperactivity. There are three subtypes of ADHD.

  • Predominately Inattentive subtype - These children have a hard time staying focused and on task, but rarely are impulsive or hyperactive. They may be forgetful and easily distracted.
  • Predominately Hyperactive-Impulsive subtype - These are the squirmers and wigglers. They have difficulty staying seated and may talk incessantly. These children often act before thinking and have a difficult time waiting their turn.
  • Combined subtype - These children display symptoms form both predominately inattentive subtype & predominately hyperactive-impulsive subtype.

Symptoms of ADHD

The chart below provides symptoms based on the DSM-IV criteria for diagnosing ADHD.

Either A or B

A. Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months to a point that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:
  1. Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  2. Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
  3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  4. Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
  5. Often has trouble organizing activities.
  6. Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  7. Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  8. Is often easily distracted.
  9. Is often forgetful in daily activities.



B. Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:

  1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  2. Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
  3. Often runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).
  4. Often has trouble playing or enjoying leisure activities quietly.
  5. Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor".
  6. Often talks excessively.
  7. Impulsivity
  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
  • Often has trouble waiting one's turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).
Other Criteria


  • Some symptoms that cause impairment were present before age 7 years.
  • Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g. at school/work and at home).
  • There must be clear evidence of significant impairment in social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms do not happen only during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder. The symptoms are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

What should I do if I suspect my child has ADHD?

Your first step should be calling your child's pediatrician. Some pediatricians may do an ADHD evaluation themselves while others may choose to refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or trained clinical social worker for the ADHD evaluation. The assessment will involve information gathering. Your doctor may request school records and/or previous medical records. Both parents and teachers are given standardized evaluation forums, used to observe and rate child's behavior. Your doctor will then use this information to determine whether an ADHD diagnosis is warranted and to help determine appropriate medications and/or other treatment options.