Every child sometimes daydreams, does something without thinking, fidgets or forgets her lunch or homework. But the inability to pay attention could also be a sign of ADD, or attention deficit disorder. If not recognized or treated, ADD can impact your child’s ability to learn and interact with others. Getting to know the symptoms and signs of ADD will help you recognize them in your child.
A lot of people think that children with ADD or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) are always running around and being disruptive, or aren’t able to focus on one thing. While these things may happen, other children often sit quietly and daydream, or focus so much on a task they’re doing that they’re not able to shift their attention to something else. Still others are only slightly inattentive, but very impulsive, and act without thinking.
The three main characteristics of ADD or ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and each child will show the disorder differently depending on which of those is dominant. All three are present in most ADHD cases.
Inattentive children make careless mistakes or don’t pay attention to details, are distracted easily, and have problems focusing. If your child doesn’t seem to listen when you talk to him, or has difficulty remembering things, following directions, staying organized, planning or finishing projects, it could be a sign of ADD. These children also lose or misplace things frequently.
Kids with this symptom of ADD can pay attention to things they’re interested in or enjoy doing, but tune out if they find a task boring or repetitive. They also may go from one task to another without finishing any, or skip important steps. Distractions from activity going on around them make it difficult to concentrate, so they need a quiet work environment.
Hyperactive traits are most often associated with ADHD, but can also be found in those with ADD. Children with this symptom squirm or fidget a lot, have problems sitting still, constantly move or run around, talk a lot, and can’t play quietly by themselves.
If your child is hyperactive, you’ll know it, since it’s the most obvious sign of ADD or ADHD. If you force your child to sit still, she’ll keep tapping her feet, moving her legs or drumming her fingers. When trying to accomplish something, she’ll usually multi-task or jump from one activity to another.
Impulsive children interrupt others, are impatient about waiting their turn, blurt out answers before hearing the entire question, or butt in on other people’s conversations. If your child has this sign of ADD, he’ll probably also have difficulty keeping his emotions under control, and will throw temper tantrums or get angry easily.
This symptom can result in problems with self-control, because an impulsive child doesn’t censor his own behavior the way most people do. He may ask prying questions, say insulting things, or invade the personal space of others. He also may be moody, overreact to things, and be seen by other kids as disrespectful or needy.
There is no specific test for ADD or ADHD, so doctors observe children’s behavior and then rule out any other cause for it. To do this, you can expect a full physical and psychological evaluation, including interviews with you and your child. Getting a second opinion is a good idea; you can ask a pediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist.
A diagnosis of ADD or ADHD requires the symptoms to have started before age seven and have continued for at least six months in two or more environments, such as school and home. They also must have negatively impacted the child’s family, school or social life, not be caused by another physical, mental or emotional disorder, and be abnormal for her age.
If left untreated, the symptoms of ADD can cause problems in school or with making friends. That in turn can lead to low self-esteem and family stress. However, treatment can make a big difference, and that doesn’t necessarily mean medication.
Your child will need structure and consistency, as well as support and encouragement. Communicate clearly with him, reward his good behavior, and implement consequences for bad behavior. Also make sure he exercises for an hour every day, whether that means playing sports, walking, or riding a bike, and serve him nutritious, wholesome and natural foods rather than processed food. In your home, make sure there are as few distractions as possible.