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Normal Behavior or ADHD?

October is ADHD Awareness Month. Learn the signs and symptoms to watch for.

There are a variety of reasons a child may have trouble sitting still, following directions or paying attention. Often, this behavior is due to age or maturity level. However, frequent hyperactivity or trouble concentrating could be a sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

So how can you tell if your child is exhibiting normal childhood behaviors, or if they are exhibiting symptoms of ADHD? The answer might depend on if you are talking about a 3-year-old or a 10-year-old, along with several other factors.

“Most 2- to 3-year-olds are hyperactive and impulsive – that’s part of normal development,” explains Catherine Karni, M.D., Medical Director of Outpatient Services at Children’s Health℠ and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern. “We become concerned about ADHD in a child when the symptoms extend beyond that.”

A child with ADHD may have the following symptoms beyond what most children their age demonstrate:
• Trouble sitting still
• Difficulty following directions
• Poor planning and organizational skills
• Disruptive in a classroom setting (e.g., talking, leaving seat)
• Forgetful (due to inconsistent attention)
• Hard time keeping hands to oneself
• Impulsive behavior

Symptoms of ADHD can affect not only a child’s academic performance but also a child’s social development. Learn more about managing ADHD in children.

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