Early Warning Signs of ADHD in Children

Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADHD), once considered a misinterpreted term for typical toddler behavior, is now one of the most common mental health disorder globally. Over the years, ADHD is found to have a deep and lasting effect on learning and academic development of children.  A neuroimaging study at Kennedy Krieger discovered that children with ADHD have a smaller caudate nucleus compared to children without ADHD. Caudate nucleus is associated with cognitive development and motor control. Like many other psychological disorders for children, ADHD is also either an unheard or invented term for many parents in Pakistan. However, as more children suffer from the disorder, organizations and experts in Pakistan now recognize the risk of academic, social and professional failure associated with ADHD. Since ADHD is a complex disorder to understand, this article aims to list important early warning signs of ADHD as highlighted by experts around the globe.

Read More: Early Warning Signs of Autism in Children

Classification of ADHD

Like any other neurodevelopmental disorder, ADHD is very complex. A lot of signs of ADHD coincide with regular toddler or teen behavior. American Psychiatric Association (APA) has classified ADHD into two categories for sake of clarification and recognition.  The two main classifications of ADHD includes Signs of Inattention and Signs of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) was initially listed as a separate behavioral disorder than ADHD by WHO. However, the symptoms and future impact of both inattention and hyperactivity coincided widely. Therefore, the WHO and APA recognize ADHD as a single disorder.

It is also important to understand that there is no specific age for developing ADHD. Unlike Autism, that develops no later than 2-3 years of age, ADHD’s development can start from as early as few months of age to as old as adolescence. The essential part is to be able to distinguish between signs of ADHD and regular toddler or teen behavior. Therefore, it is imperative for parents to be aware of suggested list of signs and symptoms for ADHD to recognize the disorder. For better understanding, we have classified signs according to the classifications of ADHD.

Early Warning Signs of Inattention

  • A child with ADD does not like to indulge in activities that require paying attention for longer than few minutes. ADD child shows similar behavior in class and home. The child cannot continue an activity or task that takes longer time to complete and always leave the task in middle due to lack of ability to keep focus.
  • Tend to lose things more often than normal due to lack of attention to assortment of things. For instance, school supplies are often left in class despite reminders by parents, and loss of glasses or phone is a common occurrence.
  • Children find it extremely hard to focus when teachers or parents are telling them something. Cannot follow instructions regarding school work and house chores. Children with ADD also seem to miss out on details for most tasks in classroom and at home. When children with ADD are taught something, they seem to forget the details when asked. Children with ADD cannot recall things even right listening to them.
  • Forgetful of activities, tasks, or any other responsibility placed on them.
  • Children with ADD are prone to making careless mistakes in classwork, tests or house chores.
  • Daydreaming is quiet common in children with ADHD. Even if the child has hyper element in them, they can be found lost in thoughts at the same time. Children with ADHD can get easily distracted by any stimuli or irrelevant thoughts.
  • According to an empirical study by APA, children who have ADHD cannot hop on one foot by age 4 as they cannot focus on instructions.

Early Warning Signs of Hyperactivity

  • Fidget movements, cannot stand or sit at one place for long time, always on move or move fingers, hands or taps
  • Cannot stay in seats for longer even when classroom is in order. They can also constantly squirm when forced to sit.
  • Displays self-focused behavior. This includes continuously interrupting during conversations, unable to wait for their turn to talk or move forward, unable to understand other people’s requirements or needs and do what they want. It is normal for kids to be more impatient when waiting for their turn. However, children with ADHD are observed to carry this trait for longer period than normal children.
  • Children with ADHD often fail at reading social cues even after entering teenage. This is, again, due to their self-absorption.
  • Children with ADHD are more fearless, They are also fond of climbing, jumping or get into troublesome activities.
  • Become more aggressive with peers due to hyper nature and are susceptible to make more uproars than peers. Children with ADHD often talk excessively and in hyper mode.

Important Considerations in Evaluation of ADHD in Children

An important consideration in evaluation of ADHD is that ADHD symptoms are more accurately identified after 2-3 years of age. This is because most of the signs of ADHD coincide with normal toddler behavior. The best age to analyze or worry about ADHD is 4 to 16 years. In order to be diagnosed for ADHD, the child should display at least six warning signs of ADHD. That too for at least six months consistently. For proper evaluation, the symptoms of ADHD should be observed at both home and school.

Moreover, as soon as the symptoms start affecting children, it should be considered as sign of concern. This includes both personal and academic performance. If the child is showing few symptoms of ADHD but gets hold of his studies and daily chores, then more observations should be made. Lastly, getting expert help as soon as possible should be given preference by parents. Especially if any warning signs appear in child.

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