The term ADHD is thrown around so much these days. It seems everyone has it! But, what if you really do think, ‘Does my child have ADHD?’ How can you know for sure? There is a fair bit of conflicting information, largely due to the fact that ADHD can have some very individual presentations whilst roughly following a similar theme if that indeed makes sense? Added to this girls and boys can ‘show’ very differently, and then, in the case of my daughter, for example, she presents as a boy when it comes to ADHD. Confused? I don’t blame you! Ok, so I will list below the very common signs of ADHD, which is not to say there aren’t more. I am no professional, but these are just observations of what I have learnt over the years from my experience with ADHD.
But first, briefly, what is ADHD, or its full name Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder? Well, as the name suggests, ADHD falls into two categories. There is the inattention aspect, and the hyperactivity and impulsiveness side. Many people have both hence ADHD. Children with ADHD have often been called the naughty or challenging children in class or at home, due to the behaviour, they present.
Let us break down the two sides:
- The child will often appear to not be listening, spaced out, daydreaming, or avoiding direct eye contact.
- They will constantly want to change a task or an activity especially if the task is tedious or time-consuming. Conversely, they will be unable to come off a task immediately.
- Their attention span is noticeably short, they are very easily distracted, often unable to finish a task like homework or a chore.
- They may have difficulty organising tasks and can make careless mistakes.
- They may often lose things and be forgetful.
This is largely due to not being able to sustain long periods that involve mental effort.
So, really you are looking at seeing about five to six of the above that have been present for over 6 months and are not really in line with their developmental level.
Hyperactive and Impulsive
- The child is unable to sit still becoming restless in most situations and will constantly fidget, it’s like they are being driven by a motor.
- They will talk excessively, interrupt conversations and shout out.
- They are often unable to concentrate on tasks.
- There is generally little or no sense of danger in what they do, very impulsive, acting and speaking out without thinking.
- They will find it difficult to wait for their turn, in queues, in conversations etc.
Again, you would expect to see five to six of these symptoms, before the age of 12 years. With the hyperactive/impulsive side, you would also be able to witness them in a couple of settings e.g., at school, with friends, at home etc. Like inattentiveness symptoms, when they are prevalent enough to interfere with their life, holding them back developmentally, socially, and academically, then I would suggest talking to their school and your GP.
Does my child have ADHD??
I remember taking an online quiz once which literally said Does your child have ADHD? It was a tick box thing ranging from Very Often to Never…
- Does your child have difficulty waiting patiently to take turns, butts ahead in lines or grabs toys from playmates?
- Does your child avoid activities that require sustained concentration and a lot of mental effort?
- Does your child constantly seem to be fidgeting?
- Even when spoken to directly, does your child seem to not be paying attention?
- In a class or at home, does your child blurt out answers to questions before they are fully asked?
- Does your child interrupt other people’s activities and conversations?
- Does your child forget to do things, even when constantly reminded?
- Does your child interfere in the classroom because she/he has difficulty engaging in quiet activities without disturbing others?
- Can the smallest distractions throw your child off task?
- Does your child have problems remaining seated, even when she/he is supposed to?
- Does your child talk a lot, even when she/he has nothing much to say?
- Does your child lose things like homework and personal belongings?
- Does your child act as if she/he is driven by a motor?
- Does your child fail to complete an activity before moving to the next activity?
- Is your child disorganized and, even with help, can’t seem to learn how to become organised?
- Is it very difficult for your child to stay focused on homework or other tasks?
- Does your child make careless mistakes?
See, if I did this for both my children with ADHD I would come up with two different sets of answers, although, let’s just say, I’d be marking Very Often for a lot of them!! Sorry, I digress.
So, whilst a GP can’t formally diagnose ADHD, they can refer you to a specialist if they feel this is required.
Diagnosis requires a specialist assessment. It will be carried out by a Psychiatrist, Clinical Psychologist or Paediatrician. They need to ensure that it is not another underlying condition. The Professional will note in detail the child’s developmental history and psychosocial history. They will also want to know how this behaviour impacts their daily life. Standardised tests can be used as well.
Some professionals may also want to carry out some assessments in the school setting. Gaining the input of your child’s teachers is often useful to them too. They will always want a first-hand observation of your child. I remember taking my daughter to her appointment and thinking she would probably sit beautifully and hold it all in. Thankfully, she acted like her normal self. She spent the entire time whizzing up and down the Psychiatrist’s office on a wheelie stool.
I got the diagnosis.
Also, worth noting is that about 60-80% of children with ADHD will have at least one other condition. My daughter has dyslexia, dyscalculia and ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, my youngest son is currently awaiting assessment.
Statistics show that more boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD. Not because girls are less likely to have ADHD. More than they often present in the more inattentive, ‘daydreaming’ side as opposed to the hyperactive side. My daughter presented more as hyperactive, which is why she got noticed. I would imagine the fact of having undiagnosed dyslexia would make you more than frustrated. Imagine being in class and having no idea what they have just asked you to read and then do! I will always remember when she was diagnosed with dyslexia. She got her first coloured perspex placed over some writing, and she said, ‘Mummy! The words aren’t bubbly!’, I could have cried! I asked her why she had never said anything before, she said she thought they were supposed to look like that! Bless her!
One of the main problems with recognising ADHD is probably that your child could display all the above or maybe just a few parts. ADHD is a very individual thing. So, what ADHD is to you could be vastly different from someone else, which adds to the confusion. My two children display quite differently, probably why I had not noticed my son’s ADHD creeping up whilst dealing with my daughter’s ADHD! Basically, everyone is on a spectrum and that is why no two people are the same. Don’t let someone tell you they are not ‘bad’ enough or that they are well-behaved in school and therefore fine. I always think go with your gut feeling.
My daughter did not do well in mainstream school. She would run out of class, could not sit with the other kids, and hated too much noise, yet made plenty of it herself. She would like to sit under tables, refuse to do work and generally fell behind academically. My youngest son, however, is extremely hyperactive, cannot sit still at mealtimes or in class, yet can watch a whole movie, unlike his sister. He is very clever and academic, has amazing vocab, and likes to be in class. He is extremely impulsive. Has to touch anything he has been told not to touch, for example, hitting the school fire alarm in a queue to leave at home time. Had no idea why he had done it, burst into tears, and said he had not thought about what it would do!
ADHD is a mental health condition.
It is a persistent neurological issue that displays in varying ways through inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. Please address it if it is interfering with your child’s day to day life and development. It is considered a learning disability. However, it is not the end of the world! The way the ADHD brain thinks is amazing! Always outside of the box, full of imagination and creativeness! I heard a fabulous phrase on a Ted Talk the other day with Angela Aquirre,
“If a student can’t learn the way you teach then you need to teach the way they learn.”Ignacio Estrada
And that is one of the best bits of advice I can give. I don’t mean this just in a school setting, but at home too, as a parent. Sometimes I have to check myself when I’m talking to my children with ADHD and rephrase things. I now use a sand timer for my son, it gives him a visual idea of how long he has rather than me just yelling at him to hurry up! (click the link for the ones I got off amazon! I do get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.)
However, I couldn’t possibly use the timer on my daughter, she hates them! They put her under too much pressure and thankfully, she is better at timekeeping than him. You will gradually learn strategies for your child to help them learn and thrive. I really found talking to other parents with ADHD helpful. I have just started a small, private support group on Facebook for anyone who wants to chat. Please click this link ADHDinchildren and answer just three private questions. It’s a great place to ask a question or just see what others have to share.
I hope this has been helpful? If you find yourself asking, ‘Does my child have ADHD?’, I always think go with your gut. You’re not getting a diagnosis just to label your child, after all, you are getting a diagnosis to best understand how to help your child and learn what to do to help them. Good luck on your journey and feel free to reach out if you need, I’m no Dr, but I am a mum of kids with ADHD.
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Wow, so interesting, thank you. I see a lot of my son in the description of your daughter. My son 75% chance of dyslexia (dad and brother also has) but haven’t been able to assess as he has such low opinion of himself and fear of failure and rejection and so won’t give anything a go. Not just school – even swim lessons were too much for him. I think the dyslexia along with his possible ADHD is why he struggles in school so much. Defiance and avoidance of work although if I had to bet, I would say he has a higher IQ than my eldest son and he is 125!
I know one thing for sure and that is he is complex – SALT observed him in school and she said he has truly baffled me. Strong signs for and against!