May 1, 2001 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Learning About ADHD in Children

Am Fam Physician. 2001 May 1;63(9):1811-1812.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a common health problem in children. Children with ADHD are hyperactive—they can't sit still. They are also impulsive and easily distracted. They have trouble coping at school and at home.

Some people think ADHD is caused by bad parenting or by eating too much sugar. The truth is, we still do not know the real cause of ADHD. We do know that it is a problem in the brain. We also know that ADHD can run in families. ADHD often gets in the way of learning and keeps the child from doing well in school.

What should I look for in my child?

Some signs of ADHD are listed in the box below. There are other things to look for, too. Children with ADHD may be very aggressive. They may pull hair, pinch or hit. They may have temper tantrums. Almost all children who have ADHD show some signs of the problem before they are 7 years old.

What if I think my child has ADHD?

If you are worried that your child has ADHD, you can talk to your child's teacher at school or day care. Ask this person if your child has a short attention span or is hard to control. A child has to show signs of ADHD in at least two places (such as school and home) to get a diagnosis of ADHD. In addition, the signs have to last for at least six months.

Things to Look for if You Think Your Child Has ADHD

Lack of attention Hyperactivity

Doesn't pay close attention to details

Often fidgets or squirms when sitting

Has trouble paying attention

Can't stay in seat

Doesn't seem to listen when spoken to

Runs about or climbs when he or she shouldn't

Fails to finish tasks

Can't play quietly

Has difficulty organizing tasks

Always “on the go”

Avoids tasks that need a lot of effort

Talks too much

Often loses things needed for home or school

Blurts out answers

Is easily distracted

Can't wait his or her turn

Is often forgetful

Often interrupts others

Things to Look for if You Think Your Child Has ADHD

View Table

Things to Look for if You Think Your Child Has ADHD

Lack of attention Hyperactivity

Doesn't pay close attention to details

Often fidgets or squirms when sitting

Has trouble paying attention

Can't stay in seat

Doesn't seem to listen when spoken to

Runs about or climbs when he or she shouldn't

Fails to finish tasks

Can't play quietly

Has difficulty organizing tasks

Always “on the go”

Avoids tasks that need a lot of effort

Talks too much

Often loses things needed for home or school

Blurts out answers

Is easily distracted

Can't wait his or her turn

Is often forgetful

Often interrupts others

How can my doctor tell if my child has ADHD?

Your doctor will ask you about your child's behavior problems. The more details you can give about your child, the easier it will be for your doctor to decide. You might also have a psychologist do some tests. Here are some questions your doctor might ask you:

  • How well does your child get along with brothers and sisters, schoolmates and other children?

  • Does your child have trouble getting schoolwork done? or jobs at home?

What can I do to help my child with ADHD?

You can do many things that will make life easier for you and your child with ADHD. Your doctor will give you advice to help your child study, control behavior and have better self-esteem. There are also some medicines that may help your child concentrate better. The best results come when parents, doctors and teachers work together to make a special plan for the child, at home and at school.

Where can I get more information about ADHD?

The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

P.O. Box 1492

Washington, DC 20013-1492

Telephone: 1-800-695-0285

Web site: http://www.nichcy.org/

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

8181 Professional Place, Suite 201

Landover, MD 20785

Telephone: 1-800-233-4050

Web site: http://www.chadd.org/


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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