In adults, ADHD is a condition that typically manifests as poor attention to work. In a child or adolescent, it can manifest itself as poor attention to school work. In addition, a child may be fidgety, or move around constantly. This behavior may meet criteria for the Hyperactivity component of ADHD.


Research shows that the prevalence of ADHD is around 8% in children and 4.4% in adults. It begins in early childhood, and about 60% of patients continue to have impairing symptoms through adulthood.

Symptoms of ADHD are usually seen by age 7, and sometimes much earlier. ADHD is often difficult to differentiate from normal behavior in a growing child. Often times, normal behavior in a growing, boisterous child, can be confused as hyperactive or inattentive behavior by concerned parents.

Parents concerned about their children’s possible ADHD, should start looking at the level of impairment faced by the child in school setting, family setting and in social situations. If the parents constantly hear from teachers at school that their child is not able to pay attention, not completing their work, does not stand in line, talks out of turn, disrupts the class, etc…, then they need to look at their child’s behavior at home and in social situations.

At home, is the child running around constantly? Does he/she have difficulty sitting down to dinner? Does the child fidget constantly, interrupt conversations a lot, have difficulty sitting still in church? How does he or she compare to other siblings or to other children of the same age? This comparison will help provide perspective to the parent when they are struggling with a question such as, “Is this behavior normal in my child?”

Impairment or distress from the above described symptoms must be present for at least 6 months for a diagnosis to be made.

It is also important to consider other reasons for inattentive and hyperactive behavior in children. Children exposed to traumatic events, or those that have been abused physically or sexually can present as hyperactive and disorganized in their behavior. Stressors such as parental discord, parental divorce or separation can lead to anxiety and disruptive behavior in children.

A learning disability can lead a child to become inattentive and not do their assigned work. On the flip side, a child could be labeled as having a learning disorder if he/she is not able to complete their assigned task. A child at age 6-7 is learning the basics of reading, writing and math, and due to problems with inattention and hyperactivity, the child is unable to comprehend these basics, it may set them up for academic failure and other problems.

If a parent suspects that their child may be having difficulty with learning and inattentive /hyperactive behaviors, a professional evaluation by a Child Psychiatrist is recommended.

In children with ADHD, anxiety manifests itself often and in different ways. Other conditions such as pediatric OCD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder need to be assessed for as well. To rule out other disorders and for a thorough evaluation, one can start with their pediatrician. The pediatrician will order lab tests to look for any conditions that may contribute to the symptoms of ADHD. Once this evaluation is completed, a Psychiatric evaluation is recommended by a Child Psychiatrist who can then provide a comprehensive evaluation and help the parent develop a treatment plan.