What are the symptoms of ADHD?

I wish there was a clear answer, or a quick blood test, that could give a definitive answer. For us, there were several things that lead to the diagnosis of our son. It wasn’t because he was a high energy toddler. All of my children were/are high energy toddlers, and only one has ADHD. It was a lot of things combined: he started junior kindergarten as one of the oldest kids in the class (because his birthday is at the beginning of the year), yet he was far behind most of the other kids when it comes to following instructions and cooperating. We had noticed these things at home, but attributed it to not having been in daycare or around a lot of kids other than his siblings.

By senior kindergarten, he had progressed well academically, but still continued to experience the same behavioural issues. He spent too much time in “time out” and wasn’t bothered by it at all. He didn’t learn from the consequences, and couldn’t tell us what he had done wrong to earn a consequence.

Grade one was when we started to feel that there really was a problem. His behaviour at home was extremely challenging. He demanded attention at all times, and was always in the center of any conflict. His teacher was finding the same things in the classroom and his peers were starting to reject him. He didn’t recognize that his actions hurt or embarrassed others, and he demanded much of his teacher’s time as she repeatedly went over instructions with him, or worked with him individually. He couldn’t have distractions at his desk, and rarely stayed in his seat. At home, he couldn’t stay at the table for a meal or go for a drive without tormenting whoever was unlucky enough to be seated next to him.

After discussions with his teacher, we finally spoke to our doctor just after he turned 7 years old. Personally, I don’t think kids should be tested earlier than this. Before then, Kellen’s behaviour wasn’t that much different from his peers. He may have had more frequent episodes, and we could look back now and say that it was obvious even before he was 7, but there wasn’t a clear difference between him and his peers until around age 7.

We started with vision and hearing tests, which came back normal. He had blood tests where they checked for diabetes and any other abnormalities. Again, everything was fine. He was then tested for Central Auditory Processing (CAP), which is done by an audiologist, but is about how his brain processes information instead of how his ears hear it. He was asked to repeat words with and without various background noises/distractions. He did not pass this test. We learned he has a difficult time understanding even simple instructions when there is any background noise. This was more severe with one ear than the other. We were told that CAP is often present in children with ADHD.

Since there is no simple diagnostic for ADHD, we used the SNAP-IV Teacher and Parent Rating Scale to determine Kellen’s probability of ADHD. This scale supplies a list of behaviours and asks the parents and teachers to assign a rating of “Not at all”, “Just a little”, “Quite a bit” or “Very much”. There are close to 100 behaviours listed on the chart, but here are a few of them…

Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork or tasks
Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties
Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate
Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
Often is “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
Often talks excessively
Often deliberately does things that annoy other people
Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
Often touchy or easily annoyed by others
Often is angry and resentful
Often is uncooperative
Often acts “smart”
Often is restless or overactive
Often disturbs other children
Often is restless or seems keyed up or on edge
Often is easily fatigued
Often has difficulty concentrating (mind goes blank)

You can view the complete scale here.

My husband and I completed one scale and Kellen’s teacher completed another one, without comparing notes. Our answers were remarkably similar, and strongly indicated ADHD. With all of these tests and results in hand, we asked for a referral to a pediatrician to discuss our options, and we worked with the school to help Kellen succeed.

Watch for future posts on treating ADHD, and helping your ADHD child succeed in the classroom.

***I am not a medical professional. I am a mother of a child with ADHD; and a social service worker who has had professional experience with children with ADHD. I speak from my experiences only. For a proper diagnosis, you need to speak to your doctor.



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Sheri McDonald is a family lifestyle blogger who has been sharing her parenting and travel adventures online for the past eight years. You can find her discovering the world with her children when she's not at home enjoying a good book.


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