Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
What is ADHD in children?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavior disorder. It's also
called attention deficit disorder. It's often first diagnosed in childhood. There
are 3 types:
ADHD, combined. This is the most common type. A child with this type is impulsive and hyperactive.
They also have trouble paying attention and are easily distracted.
ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive. This is the least common type of ADHD. A child with this type is impulsive and hyperactive.
But they don't have trouble paying attention.
ADHD, inattentive and distractible. A child with this type is mostly inattentive and easily distracted.
What causes ADHD in a child?
The exact cause of ADHD is unknown. But research suggests that it's genetic. It's
a brain-based problem. Children with ADHD have low levels of a brain chemical (dopamine).
Studies show that brain metabolism in children with ADHD is lower in the parts of
the brain that control attention, social judgment, and movement.
Which children are at risk for ADHD?
ADHD tends to run in families. Many parents of children with ADHD had symptoms of
ADHD when they were younger. The condition is often found in brothers and sisters
within the same family. Boys are more likely to have ADHD of the hyperactive or combined
type than girls.
Other things that may raise the risk include:
What are the symptoms of ADHD in a child?
Each child with ADHD may have different symptoms. They may have trouble paying attention.
A child may also be impulsive and hyperactive. These symptoms most often happen together.
But one may happen without the others.
Below are the most common symptoms of ADHD.
Has a short attention span for age
Has a hard time listening to others
Has a hard time attending to details
Is easily distracted
Has poor organizational skills for age
Has poor study skills for age
Often interrupts others
Has a hard time waiting for his or her turn in school or social games
Tends to blurt out answers instead of waiting to be called on
Takes risks often, and often without thinking before acting
Seems to always be in motion; runs or climbs, at times with no clear goal except motion
Has a hard time staying in a seat even when it's expected
Fidgets with hands or squirms when in a seat
Talks a lot
Has a hard time doing quiet activities
Loses or forgets things repeatedly and often
Is not able to stay on task and shifts from one task to another without completing
These symptoms may look like other health or behavior problems. Keep in mind that
many of these symptoms may happen in children and teens who don’t have ADHD. A key
part in diagnosis is that the symptoms must greatly affect how the child functions
at home and in school. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for
How is ADHD diagnosed in a child?
A pediatrician, child psychiatrist, or a mental health expert may diagnose ADHD. To
do so, they will talk with parents and teachers and watch the child’s behavior. Diagnosis
also depends on results from physical, nervous system, and mental health testing.
Certain tests may be used to rule out other health problems. Others may check thinking
skills and certain skill sets.
How is ADHD treated in children?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also
depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment for ADHD may include:
Psychostimulant medicines. These medicines help balance chemicals in the brain. They help the brain focus and
may reduce the major symptoms of ADHD.
Non-stimulant medicines. These can help decrease the symptoms of ADHD and are often used in conjunction with
stimulant medicines for even better results.
Behavior management training for parents. Parenting children with ADHD may be hard. It can cause challenges that create stress
within the family. Classes in behavior management skills for parents can help lower
stress for all family members. This training often happens in a group setting that
encourages parent-to-parent support. Behavior management techniques tend to improve
targeted behaviors in a child, such as completing school work.
Other treatment. Self-management, education programs, and assistance through your child’s school can
How can I help prevent ADHD in my child?
Experts don’t know how to prevent ADHD in children. But spotting and treating it early
can lessen symptoms and enhance your child’s normal development. . It can also improve
your child’s quality of life.
How can I help my child live with ADHD?
Here are things you can do to help your child:
Keep all appointments with your child’s healthcare provider.
Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about other providers who will be involved
in your child’s care. Your child may get care from a team that may include counselors,
therapists, social workers, psychologists, school psychologists, school counselors,
teachers, and psychiatrists. Your child’s care team will depend on your child’s needs
and how serious the ADHD is.
Adhere to behavioral and educational treatment plans. Work with your team to adjust
the plan if it's not working.
Give medicines as prescribed
Tell others about your child’s ADHD. Work with your child’s healthcare provider and
schools to develop a treatment plan.
Reach out for support from local community services. ADHD can be stressful. Being
in touch with other parents who have a child ADHD may be helpful.
Key points about ADHD in children
ADHD is a behavior disorder. It's often first diagnosed in childhood.
A child with ADHD may have trouble paying attention. They may also be impulsive and
The cause of ADHD may be genetic. It tends to run in families.
A healthcare provider diagnoses ADHD after observing a child’s behavior and doing
Treatment often includes medicine. Parents may also get training in behavior management
skills. Your child may also be able to take self-management training at school.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child.
Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose
for that visit.
Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important
if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Online Medical Reviewers:
- L Renee Watson MSN RN
- Marianne Fraser MSN RN
- Paul Ballas MD
We do not treat children with ADHD as their main diagnosis; however, we do treat children who have developmental disabilities as well as ADHD.
- Behavior Treatment Services - Provides assessment and short-term treatment for children and teens with developmental delay or disability and challenging behaviors.
- Community Consultation Program - Provides technical assistance, training, and continuing education to schools, community and state agencies that provide services to children with learning and behavioral challenges.
- Crisis Intervention Program - Provides services to individuals with a developmental or intellectual disability living in Monroe County with significant behavioral difficulties.
Visit the Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder LibGuide for resources.