Although the symptoms of ADHD vary in both type and severity from child to child, those with the condition almost always show signs of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity before the age of 7. Symptoms are evident in more than one setting, such as at home and in school.
In school, for example, children with ADHD often have difficulty following directions, focusing on class activities, organizing tasks, and finishing tests or classroom assignments within time limits. Completing homework in a consistent and timely manner—and then remembering to turn it in—is frequently a problem.
It's important for parents to remember that such symptoms may instead indicate other common causes of academic failure, such as learning disabilities or depression. This is particularly true in teenagers, who may seem to be inattentive or impulsive when in fact they are unmotivated, oppositional, depressed, or abusing alcohol or drugs. A reasonable approach to helping your teen with declining academic performance might include: a conference with teachers to explore attendance, homework performance, and attitude; additional study time; limiting use of the TV, video games, and phones; assessment for depression; and further evaluation for ADHD, if necessary.
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Often, inattentiveness is not noticed until a child reaches elementary school. At that point, teachers and parents realize that he or she:
Hyperactivity in children can be apparent in toddlers or preschoolers but can fluctuate in intensity with growth and development. A child with hyperactivity:
Remember: Not every child who is overly active can be diagnosed as hyperactive. Children who are simply misbehaving can act within acceptable boundaries when they choose to do so, modifying their behavior for different situations. But truly hyperactive children remain at a high energy level regardless of the situation. They have great difficulty controlling themselves—and some are simply incapable of being still.
A child with impulsivity:
While most children exhibit these kinds of behaviors now and again, they occur so frequently in people with ADHD that they affect social relationships and hamper normal daily life.
Last reviewed on 8/18/08
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