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ADHD Symptom Checklist for Children

Have you been scouring the internet looking for information about ADHD? Are you wondering if your child’s behavior is “normal”?

If you have a gut feeling that something is going on with your school-aged child, it’s a great idea to take a look at a comprehensive ADHD symptom checklist and take your concerns to your healthcare provider. It can be helpful, to investigate further, even it’s just to start ruling a few things out.

As a parent of two boys with ADHD, I know first hand how intimidating, scary, and disheartening it can be to not know what exactly is going on with your child and to not know the first thing about how to help them.

You may need to hear this. Everything is going to be okay. You are the best advocate for your child.

It has become increasingly common for parents to worry about their children’s behavior and development, and it can be difficult to discern what is normal and what might indicate there is a problem. This blog post will break down the common symptoms of all three types of ADHD in children, and give you some action steps to take on the road to getting an ADHD Diagnosis.

What you’ll learn in this article is not meant to be able to give you an official ADHD diagnosis, rather it will give you a general sense of the diagnosis process and what professionals will be looking for and help you decide if pursuing an ADHD diagnosis feels right for you and your child.

Do Your Research on ADHD Symptoms

By arming yourself with as much information as possible, you can feel confident when you make that appointment with your healthcare provider to pursue a diagnosis or want to start digging under the symptoms to see what may be causing them.

Are you seeing your child exhibit 5 or more of the following symptoms on the checklist below, in at least two different settings, like home and school?

Common Symptom Checklist for ADHD in Children

  1. Short attention span, especially for tasks that are deemed, “boring”
  2. Hyperactivity, which may be physical, verbal, and/or emotional
  3. Impulsivity, which may manifest as recklessness
  4. Fidgeting/restlessness
  5. Disorganization and difficulty prioritizing tasks
  6. Lagging time management skills and skewed sense of the passage of time (time blindness)
  7. Frequent mood swings and emotional dysregulation
  8. Forgetfulness and poor working memory
  9. Trouble multitasking and executive dysfunction
  10. Inability to control anger or frustration
  11. Difficulty completing tasks and frequent procrastination, poor time management
  12. Easily distractible
  13. Difficulty awaiting turn

If you observe many of these symptoms from your child on a daily basis, then keep reading!

Do you need to pursue an ADHD diagnosis?

That depends.

If your child attends a public school that offers services, the answer if most likely, “Yes!”. Because of the prevalence of ADHD, most school districts require a diagnosis to initiate services, like a 504 plan or IEP.

If your child’s symptoms are causing significant problems in school and affecting many of their daily activities, you may be eligible for quite a lot of help at their school.

For those of you who are homeschooling or attend a private school, you might not need a “diagnosis” per se. But it’s totally understandable if you’re curious about your kids broad range of symptoms and want help digging under them.

If your child is in the early childhood stage and not in school yet, you might be jumping the gun. ADHD is a developmental disorder and many 3 and 4 year olds would be diagnosed with ADHD because they’re, well, 3! You probably just need to let them mature a bit more before thinking about a diagnosis.

But, no matter what your child’s age, follow your gut and seek professional help if you feel that something might be up with your kiddo and you are not sure how to handle the behaviors you are seeing.

What Causes ADHD?

That’s a great question and one doctor’s and researchers and other health professionals are still trying to figure out. Some believe it to be caused by a gene that is involved in the creation of dopamine – a feel good chemical that helps regulate attention. Other’s believe it could be exposure to certain environmental factors during pregnancy, premature birth or a brain injury.

Symptoms can be exacerbated by lack of sleep, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, stress and an authoritarian parenting style, to name a few. Managing symptoms can be tricky and take a lot of trial and error, as what works for one child may not affect the next.

But, let’s be clear. ADHD is not caused by “bad” parenting. It is a developmental disorder, not something to blame yourself or other parents for.

How to Tell if Your Child Might Have ADHD

Getting an ADHD Diagnosis can be very complicated. The symptoms of ADHD overlap with many other medical or psychological conditions such as anxiety and sleep disorders.

There are many conditions that are considered to be “co-morbid”, or occurring alongside ADHD. These may be anxiety, depression, or oppositional defiance disorder, to name a few.

In order for a child to get an ADHD diagnosis of any kind, they must have a minimum of 6 of the symptoms listed below and these symptoms must be present in more than one situation – like home and school. These symptoms, also, must have been happening for at least 6 months in order to be diagnosed.

But, the first step to learning more about your child and how to help them is to learn about the three types of ADHD and how the symptoms vary.

The Three Types of ADHD

There are three types of ADHD – Inattentive Type, Hyperactive Type and Combined Type.

Your doctor or neuropsychologist will look for the possible presence of ADHD by trying to fit your kiddo into one of these three categories of behavioral symptoms laid out in the DSM-5. (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used by doctors to evaluate mental disorders)

The saying, “if you’ve met one child with ADHD, you’ve met one child with ADHD,” is so true!! ADHD can present itself very differently even in kids that carry the same exact diagnosis. Let’s take a look at the symptoms of each type individually.

symptom Checklist for ADHD Inattentive Type

The child who has Inattentive Type ADHD may be labeled a dreamer. They can be found staring into space, and often make careless mistakes. They forget their homework or find it in a ball at the bottom of their backpack, two weeks later. They lose personal items constantly and are easy distracted by just about everything in their path.

Inattentive Type ADHD is characterized by:

  • Shows disorganization across many settings, like work, school and home
  • Has an inability to finish a task
  • Shows an inability to focus on details, makes careless mistakes
  • Has difficulty following instructions
  • Can’t focus during conversations.
  • Easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.
  • Has difficulty following tasks that require mental focus – unless it is a preferred acitvity.
  • Looses things easily
  • Often distracted by external stimuli
Credit: The Far Side by Gary Larson

symptom Checklist for ADHD Hyperactive Type

Hyperactive ADHD gets diagnosed much more quickly – these kids stand out, often in ways that are not socially acceptable. They are loud and active and can’t sit still. They blurt out answers and have a hard time staying focused on the task at hand – especially when it’s boring.

Hyperactive Type ADHD is characterized by:

  • lots of fidgeting and can’t seem to sit for meals, in school, for homework, etc.)
  • excessive talking
  • talks a lot
  • impulsive in many areas – interrupts conversations, speaks out of turn, grabs things from other people.
  • Can’t wait turn or listen to directions
  • Runs or climbs all the time, gets into accidents often
  • Has trouble being quiet
  • Has trouble engaging in quiet activities for any length of time.

Diagnosing ADHD Combined Type

If your child exhibits at least 6 of Inattentive Type and Combined Type ADHD, they will be diagnosed with ADHD Combined Type.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Combined Type ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed. Most children exhibit many symptoms from both of the checklists.

Is The DSM-5 Controversial?

There is no perfect way to diagnose ADHD as illuminated by this article about some of the controversial aspects of the Diagnosing Manual that doctors use.

I can speak from experience in that the DSM promotes pharmaceuticals as the first line of treatment for ADHD. Also, from my long time experience with my students, I’ve never seen a student who goes in for a diagnosis, not be given a diagnosis.

I mention this, not to confuse you even more, but to just let you know how important it is to advocate for you child and do what you know to be the best thing for them. You can read our ADHD Story and see how prescription meds kept being offered to us, over and over, even after awful results.

How Do I Get an ADHD Diagnosis for My Child?

In order to get an ADHd Diagnosis, your child must exhibit at least 6 of the symptoms of any of the three types of ADHD – across two settings( Home and School, for example) and have a history of these symptoms for at least 6 months.

Your pediatrician may run a few tests first, like a good hearing and eyesight test, a blood test to look for lead levels and overt deficiencies.

Your doctor will also have you fill out questionnaires (The Connors Rating Scale and The Vanderbilt are two common ones) about the symptoms your child is showing and will also give you forms for teachers to fill out.

Interviews with the parents will also shed light on whether the symptoms and eventual diagnosis runs in the family and therefore can have a genetic component.

Using all the information gathered, the pediatrician can make an ADHD diagnosis.

My child has an ADHD Diagnosis, now what?

Once your child has a diagnosis, it is super beneficial to find out more about how they learn and how their brain works. Getting neuropsychological testing done can be a huge benefit for you as a parent, for their teachers, and other care givers.

A nueropsychological test is a very detailed, comprehensive assessment of skills and abilities linked to your child’s brain function. The evaluation is made up of several smaller tests that measure attention, problem solving skills, working memory, I.Q., visual-spatial skills, a variety of academic skills, and social-emotional skills.

Often a full neuropsyche is done during the process of getting an ADHD Diagnosis. If your child does not have a diagnosis yet, I fully recommend – from experience!! – having a full nueropsyche test done as part of your diagnosis journey. Your pediatrician can refer you for the test or ask at your child’s school.

You can read more about a neuropsychological test HERE.

Should I tell school about their aDHD diagnosis?

You certainly are not obligated to tell anyone about your child’s ADHD Diagnosis.

But, sharing information about your child with their school can be so enormously helpful. The more information your child’s teacher has about them, the better. Keeping the channels of communication open with their teachers and school staff is so beneficial for everyone involved.

You can work with the school psychologist to see if pursuing a 504 or IEP for your child is the right choice.

Again, consider getting a full neuropsyche test done to better understand how your child learns. As an educator and mother of two kids with ADHD, this was an absolute game changer for us.

How Can I Reduce ADHD Symptoms in my child?

There are many, many things( instead of or with pharmaceuticals) you can do to reduce the symptoms of ADHD, including diet and lifestyle changes, tweaking your parenting style, and behavioral therapy.

It can take some detective work and time to see what works for your kiddo. Do you research and see what others have tried and see what seems right for you. Be sure to check my blog, fuzzymama.com for lots of answers to this question.

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