A mom playing with her son who has ADHD.
Typically, children are around seven years old when diagnosed with ADHD.

What to Know About ADHD in Children

In order to understand ADHD in children, you first must understand what ADHD is and the science behind it. ADHD is a psychiatric disorder that impacts certain developmental functions. This deals with brain activity which affects someone’s attention span.

People who have ADHD are different developmentally because their brains crave dopamine compared to the average brain. This means people with ADHD need to constantly be doing something they are interested in and enjoying, or they will lose focus. When you do something you enjoy, your brain produces dopamine. This can often be managed by seeing a doctor and seeking treatment. Let’s take a look at some facts about ADHD in children:

  • Most children are around seven years of age when diagnosed with ADHD and symptoms can occur as early as age three.
  • 6.1 million children in the United States, 9.4% of all children, have received an ADHD diagnosis.
  • 63.8% of people with ADHD aged 12 to 17 have a co-existing condition such as anxiety or bipolar disorder, which can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

The Different Levels of ADHD

Diagnoses for ADHD fall under three categories: moderate, mild and severe. This depends on how many symptoms the child experiences and how severely they experience them. Here are some facts:

  • 14.5% of children have severe ADHD (many symptoms with severe mental impairment)
  • 43.7% of children have moderate ADHD (symptoms with moderate to little mental impairment)
  • 41.8% of children have mild ADHD (least amount of symptoms with little to no mental impairment)

ADHD Symptoms in Children

There are three ADHD presentations: predominately inattentive, predominately hyperactive-impulsive and combined. The different presentations will make children present different symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Trouble organizing tasks and activities
  • Losing things
  • Limited patience
  • Has trouble sustaining attention during lessons or play activities
  • Does not follow through on instructions
  • Avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort over a long period of time
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of listening
  • Often Distracted

To receive a diagnosis for predominately inattentive presentation, a child must have six or more of the above symptoms for at least six months.

To receive a diagnosis for predominately hyperactive-impulsive presentation, a child must have six or more of the following symptoms for at least six months:

  • Fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat in situations
  • Runs or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate
  • Unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly
  • Talks excessively, unable to sense how a conversation should proceed
  • Blurts out an answer before hearing the entire question
  • Has trouble waiting their turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others without permission
  • Breaks rules without considering the consequences

Treatments for ADHD in Children


Stimulant medication (and recently non-stimulants) can treat ADHD. They are affordable with and without health insurance. Medication is effective for the majority of children with ADHD, although it is not recommended for use in children under seven years of age. ADHD medications are taken once or twice daily in most cases. Always remember to consult your doctor about your child taking medication.

After choosing to take medication to treat ADHD, your doctor will start a trial period. Different medications and dosage amounts will be tested for best results.

Some medications will be more effective than others. Some medications will also have side effects such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Increased anxiety
  • Faster heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
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Behavioral Therapy

This type of therapy teaches children with ADHD coping skills they can use to manage their ADHD symptoms in any setting. Behavioral therapy is offered by clinical psychologists and ADHD specialists.

In behavioral therapy, children learn skills they can use throughout their entire life. In comparison, once medication wears off, you must take more or you lose control of your symptoms. For some children, behavioral therapy alone is enough to treat their ADHD. Others require therapy along with medication.

Parental Training

Parental training teaches parents how to handle a child with ADHD. The primary goal of parental training is to improve the relationship of the parents with their children.

You’ll learn about the unique characteristics of ADHD children and how to respond to them to get great results. Results include an end to tantrums, improved behavior and academic performance and less stress. Parental training is a supplemental solution, much like medication.

A Home Routine

Setting up a routine for children with ADHD is a free and effective way to treat ADHD. Schools already use routines to teach children essential life skills. At school children walk in lines and have assigned seating, everything in a routine format so children know what to expect.

By setting up a routine at home, you will keep both their inattentive symptoms and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms in check. Additionally, the routine they have at home will fit with the routine they have at school, which means their symptoms at school will be more controlled. Without a routine at home, your child will not benefit much from their school routine.

Seeking Professional Help

It is important to know to always seek a doctor’s help when diagnosing your child with ADHD and thinking about treatment options. If your child presents the listed symptoms, considering talking to your doctor and discussing treatment plans.