ADHD has become a catchall diagnosis for many children who have difficulty focusing and paying attention. A diagnosis of ADHD is made when a child has six or more symptoms in the categories of inattention and hyper-activity impulse behavior that persists for more than six months and severely affects the child’s ability to function in at least two distinct domains, usually school and home. Studies indicated that the most effective treatment is a combination of medication with behavior therapy.


  • Difficulty paying attention and/or focusing
  • Problems with organization
  • Seems to not be listening
  • Easily distracted
  • Often fidgets and squirms – can’t sit still
  • Can’t wait to speak, interrupts, talks a lot
  • Always on the go, restless
  • Avoids tasks that need a sustained application of mental effort

What is normal?

Since ADHD is a widely used diagnosis it is often a misdiagnosis as well. It can be quite normal for a child to have a short attention span, high energy and be restless. To safeguard against misdiagnosis you must see the symptoms persist in two distinct domains of the child’s life – school, home, friends, daycare – at the same time. It is normal for a child to display ADHD symptoms in new situations, under stress or in reaction to something in their environment, such as a sudden loss or move. That doesn’t mean that the child has ADHD, they may just be adjusting to circumstances.

When you should seek help:

You should seek help if your child:

  • Cannot sustain attention in most situations
  • Has excessive difficulty doing schoolwork
  • Cannot sit still, even when watching TV (different than fidgeting)
  • Constantly makes mistakes and loses things, such as books and homework
  • Cannot follow through with tasks
  • Intense outbursts of anger
  • Constantly interrupts

More Information