What are the symptoms of ADHD?
I wish there was a blood test or a specific list of predictable symptoms of ADHD that doctors could refer to, but unfortunately, there is not. 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 high energy toddlers, and only one has ADHD. There were a lot of things combined: he started junior kindergarten as one of the oldest kids in the class, 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. More typical ADHD behaviours appeared when he went to school.
Issues Often Appear at School
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. Consequences had little to no impact on him, and he 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. Our child demanded attention at all times and was usually in the center of any conflict. The teachers were finding the same things in the classroom and his peers were starting to reject him. Rarely did he 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. In order to keep him focused, 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, his behaviour wasn’t that much different from his peers. He may have had more frequent episodes, and we can 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 and is considered one of the symptoms of ADHD.
SNAP-IV Teacher and Parent Rating Scale
Since there is no simple diagnostic for ADHD, we used the SNAP-IV Teacher and Parent Rating Scale to determine our son’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 misbehaviour
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)
My husband and I completed one scale and our child’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 paediatrician to discuss our options, and we worked with the school to help him succeed.
More about our ADHD experience
Read more about the symptoms of ADHD and our personal journey:
***I am not a medical professional, but I am a mother of a child who displays the symptoms of ADHD; and a social service worker who has had professional experience with children with ADHD. These are my experiences only. For a proper diagnosis, you need to speak to your doctor.