Describe a child bursting with energy who is prone to impulsive behavior and doesn’t always listen, and it’s likely you’re describing just about every toddler and preschooler on the face of the earth. Being active means being healthy. Until a child masters the mental ability to exert self-control, impulsivity is inevitable. And before a child has the maturity to grasp multi-step directions, inattention is actually non-comprehension. So how does a parent distinguish between normal kid behavior and the possibility of ADD?
There are three major signs that are used as diagnostic guideposts, which can involve one, two, or all three of the symptoms. Most kids aren’t tested until they’ve reached a school age, but diagnosis can be made as early as four years of age.
What is more frustrating than a child who won’t do what she’s told? Fortunately, stubbornness is not a sign of ADD. But if that same child can’t seem to finish her math test because she was distracted by the tap of a schoolmate’s pencil, the tick of the classroom clock, or a tree branch scratching on a nearby window, she may be struggling with distraction issues that are one of the bedrocks of attention deficit disorder.
It’s difficult to parent a child who can’t wait in line, who interrupts adults, or who takes physical risks like leaping off the top of a jungle gym. Studies show that human brains aren’t fully developed in terms of the risk-reward calculus until the age of twenty-five. Yet if your child exhibits physical aggression as well as a hair-trigger temper when his impulses are thwarted, consider whether she’s one of the 10% of kids between the ages of three and seventeen who struggle with ADD.
Every exhausted parent of an active child wishes, at one point or another, that they could power-down their child for an hour or two. Just because a kid would rather run wild in the park than sit in a chair reading doesn’t mean he has ADD. Hyperactivity is another level of energy. It manifests as incessant movement like wandering, fidgeting, squirming, and non-stop talking. Hyperactive children have serious difficulty sitting still and remaining quiet for any activity, which is particularly challenging and disruptive in a school environment.
If your child has reached preschool and you have concerns that she may be struggling with ADD, speak to your pediatrician about testing and diagnosis. Behavioral treatment, implemented while they’re still young, can do a world of good in helping you and your child cope with ADD.