ADHD in children: first signals

ADHD in children is becoming an increasingly frequent diagnosis for those struggling with focus, impulsivity, and hyperactivity issues. Often unrecognized or misdiagnosed, it can lead to various problems that follow the child into adulthood. Knowing the early warning signs of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), however, means you can get your child the help they need as soon as possible. In this article, we will cover some of the most common initial indicators linked to ADHD so you can be aware and seek professional evaluation when necessary.

Do you think your child might have ADHD? 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects many children, typically starting in their preschool and elementary school years. It can be hard to diagnose since the signs look similar to other conditions, such as anxiety and depression, but some early signals may indicate your child has ADHD. 

Identifying the earliest signs of ADHD will allow parents to provide support immediately. With the right guidance, kids with attention issues can learn how to manage their symptoms and cope with challenges in the classroom or on the playground. 

Keep reading to discover what those first signals could be!

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD stands for “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”. It is a condition that affects the executive functions of the brain, specifically, those related to attention and impulse control.

ADHD is a chronic condition affecting both children and adults that involves difficulty with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It is thought to be due to genetic and environmental factors. The diagnosis of ADHD can vary widely depending on the individual’s symptoms, age, gender, family history, school performance, and other factors.

Children with ADHD may exhibit various signs before the age of 12 and others as early as 3 years old.

ADHD Early Warning Signs

The symptoms of ADHD are common behaviors that can be seen in many children who don’t have ADHD. However, if your child shows several signs that are persistent and pervasive, it may be a sign of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The primary warning signals of symptoms of ADHD include inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. ADHD symptoms can be:

  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Severe

ADHD may also continue into adulthood, and it occurs more often in males than in females, and behaviors can be different in boys and girls. In some cases, boys may be more hyperactive, and girls may be inattentive.

There are three subtypes of ADHD:

  1. Predominantly inattentive:  This type of ADHD is characterized by difficulty sustaining attention.
  2. Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive: This type is characterized by excessive movement and difficulty controlling impulses.
  3. Combined: This is a mix of inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.


Some of the First signals that show a pattern of inattention are:

  • Lack of sustained attention to tasks or play activities.
  • Difficulty with following instructions and completing tasks.
  • Easily distracted by external stimuli, such as noise or movement.
  • Poor listening skills– often appears not to be paying attention when spoken to directly.
  • Inability to finish tasks.
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization in daily activities.

Hyperactivity and impulsivity

Signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity can be hard to differentiate from the normal energy of a child. But these are some of the first signals:

  • Excessive talking and interrupting.
  • Inability to sit still or difficulties staying in their seat.
  • Restlessness, inability to relax.
  • Trouble waiting their turn or blurting out answers before the question is completed.
  • Frequent physical activity with no apparent purpose, such as running around, jumping on furniture, or climbing walls.
  • Impulsive choices and behaviors, such as grabbing items without permission or speaking out of turn.
  • Fidget with or tap his or her hands or feet or squirm in the seat
  • Interrupting other people’s conversations or activities.

While these may be the first signs of ADHD, it is important to note that a diagnosis can only be made by a trained professional. If you have any concerns about your child’s behavior, it is important to consult a medical professional. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, children with ADHD can learn how to manage their symptoms and cope with challenges in the classroom or on the playground.

Normal Developmental Behavior Vs. ADHD

As children grow and develop, it’s natural to experience changes in behavior and attention span. However, when distinguishing differences between normal developmental behavior and ADHD, it’s important to note a few key distinctions. 

While normal behavior can include short attention spans and occasional hyperactivity, ADHD goes beyond this to include extreme impulsivity, significant difficulty focusing, and other symptoms that can severely impair daily functioning.

Here are a few examples  of the differences between normal development behavior and ADHD:

Normal Developmental Behavior:

  • Attention span gradually increases as a child matures.
  • Hyperactivity or impulsivity is intermittent, not constant.
  • Easily distracted by external stimuli (noise, movement, etc.) but able to refocus attention when necessary.


  • Attention span is significantly shorter than normal and does not improve with age.
  • Hyperactivity or impulsivity persists in the same form regardless of context or situation.
  • Impulsive behavior often disrupts daily functioning, such as interrupting others or blurting out answers before questions are completed.

Understanding these differences can help parents and clinicians accurately identify and address potential issues that may arise during a child’s developmental journey.

When to Seek Professional Help?

If your child is exhibiting any of the symptoms associated with ADHD, it is important to consult a medical professional. A doctor or mental health specialist can help diagnose and treat these issues to ensure your child’s best chance for success.

It’s also important to remember that everyone experiences different levels of attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It is only when these symptoms are severe and persistent that it may be time to seek professional help. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, it is best to discuss them with a doctor or other healthcare provider as soon as possible.

With the right diagnosis and treatment plan, children with ADHD can learn how to manage their symptoms and lead successful lives effectively. Early detection is key to providing the best opportunities for your child. Remember that you are not alone, and many resources are available to help guide you through this journey.

Parenting Tips for Helping a Child with ADHD

Raising a child with  ADHD can be challenging, but there are many things parents can do to help their children manage their symptoms and succeed.

Here are some tips to consider:

Create a routine

Routines can help children with ADHD stay focused, organized, and on task. Establishing a daily routine can provide structure and consistency for your child, helping them manage their behavior in the long term.

Maintain consistent discipline

Consistent rules and consequences for breaking those rules can help your child understand appropriate boundaries. This will create an environment where your child feels safe and secure.

Make time for physical activity.

Exercise is a great way to help children with ADHD manage symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Making time for physical activity can give them an outlet to burn off excess energy while providing positive reinforcement for following through on activities.

Celebrate successes

It is important to recognize and praise your child’s successes, no matter how big or small. Celebrate any progress your child makes and encourage them to continue striving towards their goals.

Organize everything

Help your child stay organized by teaching them to manage their space and belongings. Create a specific place for all their items so they can easily locate what they need, reducing the frustration of searching.

Stay Positive

It is easy to become frustrated or overwhelmed when raising a child with ADHD. It is important to remain patient, positive, and encouraging during times of difficulty. When your child feels supported and motivated, they will be more likely to stay engaged in tasks and activities.

No matter how challenging it may seem, helping a child with ADHD can be made easier with the right approach. With time, dedication, and patience, parents can work with their children to create a successful plan for managing symptoms and achieving goals.

Frequently Asked Questions about ADHD in Children

Q:  What are the first signs of ADHD in children?

A: The most common initial symptoms of ADHD in children include difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and poor organizational skills.

Q: How do I know if my child has ADHD?

A: If your child is exhibiting any of the symptoms associated with ADHD, it is important to consult a medical professional.

Q: What other resources help me with my child’s ADHD?

A: There are online forums, support groups, educational programs, and books written specifically for parents raising children with ADHD.

Q: What is the best way to support my child with ADHD?

A: The best way to support your child is by creating a positive and encouraging environment.


Understanding how ADHD in children develops can help a parent become aware of early signs to watch out for. In addition to changes in behavior, there could be potentially underlying negative impacts of unaddressed ADHD in children, leading to lower self-esteem and self-confidence. It is beneficial for parents to recognize the signs right away as it can encourage them to seek out the appropriate treatments and resources available. Proactively recognizing the first signals of ADHD in a child can make a major difference in their quality of life and provide them with a larger opportunity pool for flourishing into adulthood.

Moreover, if your child is struggling with specific issues, it may be worthwhile to speak with your family doctor or therapist, who can guide you further or suggest other options. With the right guidance and support from both home and school officials, there is much that can be done to empower children with ADHD.

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