ADHD Awareness: Signs and Symptoms

by Laura Malone

Many of us have this sweet picture in our minds of what homeschooling will be like before we get started. And for some of us, it goes just as we dreamed or maybe even better. But for the rest of us, we find ourselves banging out heads against a wall, confused. We know our child. We know how curious and bright he is, so how do we explain his struggle with learning? It’s as if a gate connecting one part of his brain to another is locked. 

“Why can’t he complete simple tasks?”

“Why on earth did he know this yesterday and today it has clearly vanished from his brain?”

“Why does he fight me on everything?”

“Why can’t he understand the instructions?”

“Why doesn’t he think before he speaks?”

“Am I doing this all wrong?”

October is ADHD Awareness Month and as a former special education teacher and mother of one diagnosed ADHD child and another one suspected, this is where my heart is. No one plans for their child to have learning struggles. But maybe you’ve found yourself here. Now what? 

Many parents aren’t knowledgeable in how to recognize the signs or what their next step should be if they suspect a problem. This month, I will be writing an ADHD blog series with information on signs and symptoms, methods of diagnosis, treatments, accommodation strategies and resources. My prayer is that these posts will equip you with the tools you need to determine if your child’s learning struggles are related to ADHD and if so, help them reach their full potential not only in school, but in life.

Get the Facts

  • It is an impairment of the brain’s executive functions. This includes organizing, prioritizing focusing, effort, managing emotions, working memory and recall.
  • Impacts about 9% of children and almost 5% of adults.
  • 7 years old is the average age of diagnosis
  • Symptoms show at ages 3-6
  • 1/3 of children outgrow ADHD
  • 2/3 will have it through adulthood

3 Types of ADHD

Since 1994, doctors have been using the term ADHD to describe two subtypes of the attention disability. They are the Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD (formerly ADD) and the Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type ADHD. ADD is no longer a medical diagnosis, but it can be used to refer to the Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD. The third type of ADHD is Combined. These children are inattentive and distractible as well as hyperactive and impulsive.

Causes

Thousands of studies have been done to determine the cause of ADHD. Here’s what the most recent data shows:

  • ADHD is mostly genetic. This doesn’t mean the child will have ADHD if it’s in their genes. It means their chances are increased, especially if there are other contributing factors.
  • Excess exposure to screens
  • Poor maternal health during pregnancy
  • Head injuries
  • Exposure to high levels of toxins such as toxic metals
  • Pollution

Symptoms

Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD (formerly ADD)

Child has to have 6 or more:

  • Forgetful in daily activities
  • Poor attention to details
  • Careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • Trouble sustaining attention
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities
  • Dislikes and is reluctant to exert sustained mental effort
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish chores and schoolwork
  • Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly

Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type ADHD

Child has to have 6 or more:

  • Excessive talking
  • Fidgeting or squirming in seat
  • On-the-go or acts as if driven by a motor
  • Leaves seat when expected to remain seated
  • Runs or climbs when it is inappropriate
  • Difficulty playing quietly
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others
  • Blurts out answers before questions are complete
  • Difficulty waiting for a turn

Combined type ADHD 

6 or more from each subtype above.

Overlooked Symptoms

These are symptoms that are commonly seen in children with ADHD, but have been left off the DSM criteria.

  • Interest-based nervous system (aka “hyperfocus”) – This is when a child has the tendency to be overly focused on an activity at the extent of not being aware of what’s going on around them.
  • ADHD Emotional Hyperarousal – These children have highs that are higher and lows that are lower than the average child. They exhibit internal tension, an inability to relax and a racing mind at night which inhibits sleep.
  • Rejection Sensitivity – “Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is an intense vulnerability to the perception – not necessarily the reality – of being rejected, teased, or criticized by important people in your life.” (“3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks”, 10/2/2020, ADDitude Magazine).
  • Argumentative
  • Power struggles
  • Anger problems
  • Frequent meltdowns
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Never satisfied

Boys vs. Girls

ADHD can look very different from child to child. Boys and girls can display very different symptoms. Boys tend to be more impulsive, act out, show hyperactivity, lack focus and display physical aggression. Girls tend to be more withdrawn, have low self-esteem and anxiety, inattention, daydream and use verbal aggression such as teasing and name calling.

Closing

There are a variety of disabilities that can masquerade as ADHD, so it’s important to keep this in mind. It is wise to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician if you suspect your child has ADHD. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we discuss methods of diagnosis, treatment options, accommodations and educational resources to equip you on this journey.

Hugs,

Laura

P.S. If your child doesn’t have at least 6 of the symptoms in one subtype, but still lacks motivation during school, check out my post, 7 Tips to Motivate the Lazy Learner! I hope it’s helpful.

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