top of page

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

  • Inability to sit still

  • Fidgetiness

  • Noisy behaviour

  • Excessive talking

  • Being ‘on the go’

  • Children may run or climb when it’s not appropriate or fidget and move constantly in their seats in the classroom.

Impulsivity symptoms

  • Comprise of both behaviour and speech

  • Intolerance of frustration

  • Social intrusiveness

  • Interrupting others and impatience

  • Distress (because the child receives a lot of negative feedback)

Misdiagnosis or Self Diagnosis

Correct diagnosis is important for children’s educational performance, as well as health concerns associated with the use of medications. A diagnosis is made by taking a careful clinical history of the child’s symptoms from the caregivers, as well as information from teachers and anyone else who knows the child well. Important to note that ADHD is often misdiagnosed or presents comorbidly (alongside) some other psychiatric and medical conditions that are often mistaken for ADHD.

The symptoms listed above can very often mimic other conditions such as

  • Depression,

  • Anxiety

  • Sensory Processing Disorder

  • Low Blood Sugar

  • Hearing Problems

  • Family conflicts or difficulties

  • Emotional problems

  • Bullying

Careful consideration must be taken before self-diagnosing your child with ADHD. Just because your child presents with one or two symptoms now and again, does mean they have ADHD. The symptoms listed above can also be appropriate to developmental age, thus should be considered in the correct context.

For this reason, it is important to consult with a psychologist and/or psychiatrist who can properly diagnose your child, should you suspect any of the abovementioned symptoms. Although there are no medical tests such as blood tests or brain scans that can definitively diagnose this disorder, your child can be diagnosed through a range of educational and psychological testing that can confirm or disconfirm suspected symptoms.

If you suspect that your child is suffering from ADHD or ADD symptoms, please contact Meaningful Minds Psychologists to schedule an assessment, we have a team of psychologists and psychiatrists that can assist you- / 011 6151030/ 081 7594849

For information on how to support your child with ADHD please follow the link below:

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page