ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a common medical disorder for children. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and in friendships.

This disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children when they enter school.  ADHD affects the frontal lobes, inhibitory mechanisms of the cortex, limbic system, and the reticular activating system and more.  Pictures of children's brains with ADHD show excessive slow brain waves as compared to non ADHD brains.   This slow brain activity indicates lack of control in the cortex of the brain.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) children must show at least 6 symptoms in one domain prior to age 12.

Inattentive-type symptoms are:

  • lack of close attention to details
  • difficulty sustaining attention
  • does not appear to listen
  • does not follow through on instructions
  • struggles difficulty with organization
  • avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • loses things
  • easily distracted
  • orgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity-impulse type symptoms:

  • fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair
  • has difficulty remaining seated
  • runs about or climbs excessively
  • difficulty engaging in activities quietly
  • acts if driven by a motor
  • talks excessively
  • blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • interrupts or intrudes upon others

Combined-type symptom is:

  • individual that meet both sets of inattention and hyperactive/impulsive criteria


There is no single test to diagnose ADHD but a comprehensive evaluation is recommended.  Best practice includes gaining information from Parent's, Mental Health Professionals, School Teachers and other professionals that may be involved in the child's life such as Preschool and Child Care teachers.

If not treated ADHD can have serious lifelong consequences such as school failure, higher likelihood of school dropout, family stress and disruption, depression etc.  However with early diagnosis and treatment children with ADHD can be very successful.  Treatment is different for individual children and typically include medication and behavior interventions such as positive reinforcement & using problem solving techniques at home and in school.


For more information, try our online child care training classes:

Basic Child Development: The Brain

Cognitive Development

Basic Behavior Management

Supporting Children with Special Needs