It is common for children and teens to struggle with regulating their emotions and behaviors from time to time. They may also have focus and organization issues to go with all that. But are those enough to conclude that your child has ADHD?
It's easy to misunderstand or misdiagnose ADHD. There are so many reasons why a child could be struggling besides ADHD. For example, people often assume that if a kid has difficulties with impulse and attention, they have ADHD. However, many things can interfere with a child's close attention and focus. It could be a learning disability such as dyslexia, anxiety, or even birth trauma. For that reason, every parent has to understand the symptoms of ADHD, so their child can get the proper help.
What is ADHD? ADHD Symptoms in Kids
ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurological condition affecting 1 out of 10 children. Based on the study of the twenty-year trends in diagnosed ADHD in the US, the prevalence of ADHD among children and teens aged 4 to 17 years was 10.2% from 2015 to 2016. It represented a notable increase from 6.1% in 1997 to 1998 (Xu et al., 2018).
Diagnosing this condition during early childhood is vital because it can continue into adulthood, so learning skills to compensate for and learn missing skills is important for success. A child with ADHD may be impulsive, hyperactive, have focus problems, or a combination of these. These common ADHD behaviors can impact a child's learning throughout their academic career greatly affecting their output
“If only his work reflected just how bright he was” is something I hear almost every day. Kids with ADHD are often brighter than average but lack those all-important executive functioning skills that help them to organize their thinking and actions.
To diagnose ADHD, a healthcare provider uses guidelines from either the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Diagnosing ADHD in teens and kids involves different steps. Because there's no definitive test for ADHD yet, some healthcare professionals diagnose children to have ADHD after performing a clinical interview.
They often check children with self-regulation difficulties that affect their ability to control impulses, focus, and concentrate. However, ADHD isn't just about lack of focus, but also hyper-focusing on certain areas of interest but being unable to focus in areas that bore them or don't interest them.
Different Types of ADHD
The DSM manual classified ADHD into three subtypes: Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation, and Combined Presentation. Parents should understand the following types of ADHD and their respective ADHD symptoms to provide care for their children.
Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
The predominantly inattentive presentation is usually not as disruptive as the other presentations. Here, the child primarily exhibits the symptoms of inattention or sustained attention deficit. Mental health professionals may refer to this as inattentive type ADHD.
Kids with this type of ADHD tend to daydream or zone out. These kids comply with the rules and follow instructions but need constant reminders and adequate support to start or finish their tasks. Otherwise, they will likely commit careless mistakes.
These children and teens may possess high-level cognitive and verbal skills despite their focus issues that make them hard to diagnose. However, as these kids get into middle school and their schoolwork becomes more intense, their condition becomes more apparent. As such, they tend to exhibit higher greater organizational issues and social issues than their peers.
Here are the symptoms indicating that your child has attention deficit disorder:
Inattentive ADHD Symptoms
- Likely to miss some details
- Easily distracted
- Focusing difficulties
- Easily bored
- Easily confused
- Not listening when spoken to directly
- Having a hard time following directions
- Slow in processing information
Francis was a super charming and fun-loving teen boy with a long history of inattention and distractibility. When I met him in our QEEG review, his difficulties focusing were unusually readily apparent. Even when he tried to stay engaged, Francis would zone out and respond to just about every question with “what” or “huh.” His difficulties were consistent with a diagnosis of ADHD, Inattentive Type and his issues were severely impacting him both at home and school.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation
Children diagnosed with the hyperactive-impulsive subtype of ADHD are easily recognized, primarily because of their disruptive behavior. As a result, they get diagnosed early. For instance, preschool teachers express concern about their social and behavioral problems. These kids are described as “handsy,” poor listeners”, “have trouble sitting in their seat” or “have difficulty with transitioning.”
The impulsive behaviors of these children and teens are hard to miss. On the other hand, some teachers may miss the child's hyperactivity and impulsivity, especially if they are boys. Their high-energy behaviors may be thought of as normal.
Social issues because of their impulsiveness are common. Their behavior can wear out friendships, as other kids struggle to manage the dysregulation of their peers.
The following ADHD symptoms indicate that your child is of the hyperactive type.
Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD Symptoms
- Talks nonstop
- Constantly in motion
- Interrupts conversations
- Highly emotional
- Problems with group activities
- Socially inappropriate
- Have friendship issues
- Experience difficulty in transitioning
- High error rates
- Avoids schoolwork
Amy was so impulsive, she could barely sit in her seat for more than a minute or two. By the time she was five, she was already identified as having ADHD and getting support in her preschool program through an IEP. Playing games, basic learning tasks, and listening were very hard for Amy until she did our BrainBehaviorReset™ Program with neurofeedback to get her brain and behavior regulated. Amy continued to improve her behavioral regulation and learning over the next few years and her parents recently told me she graduated college.
Combined Presentation of ADHD
Children who are diagnosed with the combined type of ADHD means they exhibit symptoms found under the two types: both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. To be regarded as having the combined presentation, the symptoms should be evenly balanced, or there are at least six conditions present on each list of symptoms.
Due to all symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the child's behavior may be different starting from their developmental level. Therefore, these children need more care as aside from exhibiting both hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive symptoms, they may also have other issues, such as frequent mood swings and low self-esteem, among others.
ADHD Symptom Checklist
- ADHD behaviors must be present before age 12
- Other conditions have been ruled out (anxiety, depression, dyslexia, etc.)
- Nutrient defiencies have been explored and addressed
- Displays inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive behaviors
Why Early Diagnosis of ADHD is Important
Knowing the broad range of symptoms of ADHD is the first step to early diagnosis. When it comes to ADHD, the earlier its onset, the greater its severity. If any symptoms start to reduce your child's quality of life or interfere with their school work or social behavior, then it's best to explore if your child has an ADHD diagnosis.
But first, ensure that there aren't any medical conditions causing their difficulties, like nutrient deficiencies. There should also be no other mental health conditions that may cause significant problems related to these issues, such as mood disorder, anxiety, dissociative, or personality disorders.
ADHD, regardless of the presentation, is usually evident from childhood to 12 years old. The symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention should also show in different settings, like at home, in school, when with other people, or while doing daily activities.
Find a specialist who can help correctly diagnose the condition and not conclude after a short interview. At our Ridgefield center, we use QEEG Brain Map to diagnose if a child has ADHD.
QEEG Brain Map allows us to check brainwave patterning and know whether your child has ADHD. In addition, QEEG helps us rule out other conditions such as anxiety disorder, learning disabilities, and depression, making it a practical ADHD symptom test model.
ADHD is a commonly misdiagnosed condition, as a child's learning, anxiety, or processing issues may interfere with their attention. Misdiagnosis is primarily why a kid or teen doesn't perform well on ADHD medications. These children may be suffering from something else but are taking ADHD drugs.
Natural Solutions for ADHD
We use biofeedback and neurofeedback as science-backed, natural, and non-medication approaches to treat ADHD. Over a thousand research studies going back to the 1970s provide the efficacy of these methods for ADHD treatment.
Neurofeedback helps regulate the brain to allow your child to focus and shift their attention to something else as needed. It also teaches the brain how to self-regulate, which is lacking in children with ADHD.
In one study that tested the effectiveness of neurofeedback, the single test subject, Brian, discontinued ADHD medications after four years of undergoing neurofeedback under medical supervision. With his impulsivity symptoms reduced, he could concentrate better and do well in high school (Enriquez-Geppert et al., 2019).
Whether looking for a substitute for or to avoid ADHD medication, neurofeedback is a method we have used with thousands of children and teens with ADHD. It safely regulates brainwaves so that one can be more alert and present, which means that starting and finishing tasks are easier.
On the other hand, biofeedback helps the Central Nervous System to calm down so your kid can engage more. Like neurofeedback, biofeedback stimulates subtle body changes and consciously registers them as mindful acts to promote self-regulation. There's clear evidence showing the effectiveness of this natural treatment plan for many clinical issues affecting children and teens.
In addition to these methods, we also provide behavioral therapy, executive functioning training, and parent coaching to parents and kids the tools needed to deal with behavioral problems that hold them back. When combined with research-based treatments, psychoeducation empowers parents and children with ADHD to create a positive change in their lives.
If you want to learn how to reverse the symptoms of ADHD, check out our Symptom Reversal Quickstart Guide.
DSM 5 ADHD Symptom Checklist: ADHD Symptoms Checklist PDF
Enriquez-Geppert, S., Smit, D., Pimenta, M. G., & Arns, M. (2019). Neurofeedback as a Treatment Intervention in ADHD: Current Evidence and Practice. Current Psychiatry Reports, 21(6). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-019-1021-4
Xu, G., Strathearn, L., Liu, B., Yang, B., & Bao, W. (2018). Twenty-Year Trends in Diagnosed Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among US Children and Adolescents, 1997-2016. JAMA Network Open, 1(4), e181471. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.1471
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