How to Identify ADHD / ADD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a term often used for children who struggle to concentrate or are poorly behaved in class. Meaningful Minds Psychologist, Melissa Cilliers, discusses how to correctly identify ADHD in your child.

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder, often first diagnosed in early childhood. Many parents are approached by their child’s teacher when signs and symptoms are identified in the classroom. This article describes some identifying factors you may want to look out for, if you are concerned that your child may be suffering from ADHD. The term ADHD stands for a combination of both inattention and behaviorall symptoms. While the term ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is only for symptoms of inattention.

The diagnosis of ADHD is based on the occurrence of inattentive symptoms and (or) hyperactive impulsive symptoms that significantly interfere with daily functioning and development. Some of the symptoms need to be present before 12 years of age, and they need to occur in more than one setting. This is an important determining factor - thus symptoms need to occur at home and at school for example and need to actually cause disruption in a child's life. This does not count for misbehaviour or inattention only in certain circumstances.

ADHD can be split into three subtypes and shows differently in some children. For example, girls are most likely to present with the inattention and boys are more likely to present with hyperactivity and/or impulsivity.

However, most children who present with ADHD show a combination of all three types.

For children, six or more of the symptoms must have persisted for at least 6 months to a level that is inconsistent with developmental stage (not similar to their peers). These symptoms cannot be due to intentional misbehavior,defiance or a failure to understand.

For older adolescents and adults (age 17 and older), five or more symptoms are required.

Inattentive symptoms

  • Distractibility

  • Losing focus

  • Disorganisation

  • Daydreaming

  • Forgetfulness

  • Not listening to or following through on instructions

  • Poor planning

  • Losing belongings

  • Tasks of low interest to the child are often the hardest to focus their attention on

Hyperactivity symptoms

  • Restlessness