Raising Successful Kids

3 signs your kid has ADHD, according to a child psychologist


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known has ADHD, is a neurological disorder which affects a person's capacity to pay attention.

It can affect a child's ability to succeed in school or fit in socially if not managed.

However, it can also look like other disorders, says Irina Gorelik, a child psychologist at Williamsburg Therapy Group. For example, dyslexia.

"It's not as easy to diagnose ADHD from a conversation or interview," she says.

This is partially because there are three ways it could present:

  • Hyperactive-impulsive: feeling restless and has trouble with impulse control
  • Inattentive: getting distracted easily
  • Combination: both the above types are equally present

Before undergoing treatment, you should have a neuropsychologist diagnose your child, Gorelik says.

But to start, there are some signs you can see yourself which might be an indicator that your child needs treatment.

3 signs your child might have ADHD

They have trouble completing school assignments

"Schools are [often] the first to notice symptoms of ADHD," Gorelik says. A few actions a teacher might point out that could indicate your child has ADHD include:

  • Trouble finishing or initiating assignments, especially assignments with multiple steps
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Inability to get through one task, like a worksheet, without pausing
Schools are the first to notice symptoms of ADHD
Irina Gorelik
Child Psychologist

They are unorganized

"ADHD looks like a kid with a messy book bag," Gorelik says. But it could also present like they are unusually forgetful. Some specific symptoms to look out for include:

  • Constantly misplacing items
  • Trouble putting materials away
  • Struggle with categorizing items in folders

They can't sit still

The physical manifestations of ADHD could lead a child to fall behind in a traditional school and be ostracized socially.

"It's harder for these kids to make friends because they don't know the right kind of social etiquette," she says.

Symptoms might look like:

  • Tapping 
  • Squirming in your seat
  • Not being able to sit still for 20 minutes 
  • Running around when it's not appropriate
  • Talking excessively
  • Having trouble maintaining conversations
  • Blurting out answers to questions before the question is completed
  • Interrupting

Plan to support your kid in school and at home

Symptoms should be present for at least six months and interfere with your child's functioning before you consider seeking treatment, Gorelik says.

If diagnosed, there are ways you can support your child in school, socially and at home.

"[At school] this could look like setting up accommodations including giving extra time on tests, different classroom settings, and behavior plans," Gorelik says.

"Group based counseling, such as social skills groups, can also help to learn effective strategies to interact with peers."

And if you put your child in therapy, be sure to have regular consultations with the therapist too, she says.

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