23 answers

Symptoms of ADHD in a 5 Year Old?

I wanted to ask anyone that has experience with ADHD, if this sounds familiar: My daughter is 5 1/2 and she is very hyper at times (especially when she is tired). When she is tired, she talks or laughs very loud and it is very irritating. She also will not listen to me. After 4pm or so, I feel like giving up. I have a 17 month old and when she is down for a nap, I tell my 5 year old not to wake her and she often will walk right in the room and talk in a such a way to wake up the younger one. She does things like this a lot. It seems that she is quite disrespectful to me and my husband. We have tried different strategies and some work (being very, very patient with her, because she is very sensitive). She is also extremely shy and not very social around other kids. She is quite comfortable talking to adults, but not other kids. She is in Kindergarten and the teacher told me that she thinks that she needs to be evaluated for ADHD and that she often has to repeat instructions to my daughter. She does very well on her report cards, however (I work with her one on one at home, which can be a lot of work. but when she learns something, she learns it very well, no matter how much work it is for me to get her to listen to me.) Are these symptoms of ADHD? Oh, she is also very, very sensitive to smell and taste. She says that if something smells bad, she cannot eat. And she doesn't want to brush her teeth because she hates the taste of toothpaste. After 3 cavities, she has learned to hold her nose while brushing her teeth, so that she doesn't taste the toothpaste (and yes, I have tried EVERY kind of toothpaste in the market, as well as every kind of toothbrush, the reward system, holding her down and brushing her teeth for her, which is A LOT of drama.) I love my daughter very much and I want to understand her and what she is going through. I want to have her evaluated for ADHD but with all the advice to avoid medications, I feel like there is no answer. And I don't know if this is even ADHD. Any advice would be very appreciated and I appreciate you taking the time to read this.

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I knew someone whose daughter had similar reactions. Check out the SPD Foundation - http://www.spdfoundation.net/

Here are some symptoms of sensory processing disorder:

It can affect gifted children as well.
"The higher the level of giftedness in a child, the more likely that introversion is linked with increased responsivity to pain, sound, touch, and smell."

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I have worked with students with special needs for several years and have also evaluated students. This is what I tell my parents who suspect ADHD, If you child is hyper and unable to attend at home and at school then those may be signs. Keep in mind that a child with ADHD cannot decide when to turn it on and off. So if your child is able to pay attention when watching their favorite t.v. show many would say that it is not true ADHD.
I would talk to your doctor about your concerns. The evaluation is a questionire and is subjective and there are TOO many kids diagnosed and put on medication who dont truly have ADHD. There are many alternatives other than medication, such as diet and behavior management, but your pediatrician will know. Hope this helps and remember that many times these things are just age appropriate. Personally I would wait to see if she out grows it before any type of medication.

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Before you start trying to name the problem, get more data. (I speak from experience.) If you name the problem and then seek medical help, the help you get is going to be tailored to the problem you're asking for help with, whether or not it really IS the problem. So get a thorough evaluation done first at someplace like Kennedy Krieger or Children's Hospital. The toothpaste issue and taste sensitivities really sound to me like sensory integration issues, which may or may not co-exist with ADHD. But she's only five--you may just want to keep a journal for a while, to figure out if there are patterns to what she's doing, if it has to do with time of day or diet or whatever....in general, the more info you can gather, the better. BTW, I have two daughters, 8 and 12; both have ADHD and were diagnosed when they were 7. I have WAY too much experience on this subject--feel free to contact me offline if you want to talk.

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That sounds a lot like my son. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 6 between his k year and 1st grade. He did well in school due to us doing a LOT with him at home. We could see in his eyes when he was able to focus and we would grab those few moments (literally moments not minutes) luckily he picked things up quickly. He also did his pre-k years as a peer in a special education class which helped him too becuase the teachers were able to give a lot of one on one attention as well as all the physical and occupational therapists. Due to that he was way ahead in kindergarten but once he hit 1st grade they expect a lot more out of the kids and we were getting lots of feedback from the teacher how he couldn't concentrate or focus. My son too seems to have a lot of sensory issues, is great around adults doesn't always seem to get along with other kids all the time. We talked to his pediatrician about our concerns. For us medicine was the best option. When his symptoms started affecting him socially that is when I really wanted to do something. I could give him extra help in school but I couldn't help him get along with other kids. He started developing motor tics from the stress of other kids rejecting him. Since starting on medicine he is so much better. I can see his self confidence improving. He is actually able to play games with his friends cause he can focus and understand the directions. He is so much happier which makes me so much happier. It definitely won't hurt to have her evaluated. At least you will know what you are dealing with. Plus with a diagnosis you have more power with getting her extra help in school should you choose the no medicine route. I would look at all the options. Would the benefits of medicine outweigh the side effects. The medicine my son is on now has no adverse side effects. His teachers say he is able to focus and concentrate but still be goofy,funny, and silly Shaun when its appropriate. I just don't think you should say no to any specific treatment yet. Good luck with it.

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Your daughter's symptoms sound very much like those of Aspergers...a spectrum disorder generally not as severe as full autism. She may also have a co-morbidity of ADHD (as it is called when more than one issue is involved at the saem time). It is easier and more reliable to diagnose Aspergers or Autism early than ADHD, which can have widely fluctuating symptoms over ages. Aspergers (AS)interventions can be extremley helpful to begin early. The high functioning AS child is a handful and it takes patience and consistency to help them along, especially in school where incorrect social interaction, lack of cuing and complete misunderstanding of nuance, gesture and body language can create extreme problems. Teachers need to always be aware and therefore watchful, as AS is a relatively 'invisible' problem. Kennedy Kreiger is terrific but has very long wait times. If you call with a referral be sure to say you will accept ANY spot and ask them to put you on a cancellation list and tell them you can be seen at either location, Greenstreet or downtown. Also consider Children's Hospital in DC through the child psych dept. They have an autism and developmental delay group as well. Be sure to seek special services and evaluation through your school district. You can never have too much information...fortunately you have been observant of your daughter's differences at her early age, and this is very important.

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I dont know if I can help any but my son who is five sounds alot like your daughter. He is very loud and can talk way too much(I know i laugh to myself can a child even do that)I feel so bad even saying it but...its the truth. I just tell my son there is situations where you can talk and situations where you are quiet. My son is like that too, where for example when he picks common senses things up really quick and putting two and two together but when it came to like his colors...oh my goodness i thought i would lose my mind. I also have a baby well 14 months old and my son is very loud at times. We had his ears tested and they said he had fluid in his ears and he would have bad (where he cant hear) days and good days(where is is fine). That it would get better when he gets alittle older. I think my son has ADHD also but can not confirm it. He goes to school this year so i guess we will see. I believe they are things my son can help because I have seen him be good as in behave for me. I think im just like you though i just want to understand his thinking that way I can help him behavioral and educational wise. If the teacher says to get her tested I would though and as far as the meds go, I mean everyone has their opinions about the bad and good but my opinion is that go with your gut, do what you think is right for your child. People kept telling me nothing was wrong with his hearing and i checked anyways and I found about the fluid, so....good luck...

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I would seriously doubt your daughter has Aspbergers. A LOT of the behaviors you described are totally developmentally appropriate for a 5 1/2 year old, especially one that's tired. Kids that are overly tired sleep less than kids that are well rested. And their behavior is difficult, to say the least when tired.

Ok, but I would very much recommend looking into something called Sensory Processing Disorder. www.sensory-processing-disorder.com (or org, can't remember off hand, I have it bookmarked lol!) or www.SPDfoundation.net

The taste and smell things are dead giveaways. The reason people say it sounds like Aspbergers is the sensory thing. not all kids with SPD have any form of autism, but most all kids with some form of autism have SPD.

It's not something that will hinder her, she will just have to learn as she gets older how to manage it. Occupational Therapy often helps, but may not be covered by your insurance.

Check the symptoms on the websites provided, and see if you don't have an A-HA! moment. :) Good luck!!

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Please, please, please search for the book "Raising your spirited child" before deciding to get her tested or medicated. What your daughter sounds like is a "spirited child" not a ADHD child. Of course if you find that after you use the tips in the book and your daughter still has issues then I would have her tested.
There are a lot of stradegies and helpful things you can do to help her be her best and you to be your best as well. The first thing I would suggest is to turn those negative descriptors you have for her such as "hyper", "irritating", disrespectful" into postive ones. Instead of "Hyper" you can call her "Energetic" and instead of "Irritating" you can call her "Challenging". Instead of "Disrespectful" you can call her "assertive" or "self assured". When you label your daughter she will mold herself to those labels. So why not give her positive ones to mold by? It will also give her a sense of self esteem that she doesn't get from the other negative labels you have for her.

If she has the sensitivity to smells,tastes and sounds and can still cope (such as holding her nose while brushing her teeth) then she is most likely just a spirited child and not having a sensory disorder. Children with sensory disorders cannot adapt or overcome the intense stimulation of smells, tastes, feels and sounds even with help from the parent. Spirited children can be very sensitive to sensory things such as light, noise, textures, smells, tastes and energy. When given the right skills they can cope and get through it.Not all spirited children have the same sensitivities.

Spirited children are just "more" but they are well within the "normal" range for a child. They are more intense, more sensitive, more perceptive, more persistent and energetic. You just need to help them get through their struggles to be themselves when no one understands.

Please check out the book.I had a lot of struggles with my son at an early age and I still feel like he is not listening but until I got this book I thought that he just couldn't focus or listen. Now I realize that it is his nature and temperment and that there is nothing wrong with him. Since using some of the techniques in the book our relationship has blossomed and changed for the better. I wish my mother had this book when I was growing up because I was the same way as a child and am now dealing with self esteem issues that are from the labels that were put on me (difficult,hyper,stubborn,unruly etc). Please look at the way you look at her and see if the labels and words you use to describe her aren't painting a negative picture in your head.

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It sounds to me like ADHD, I would take her to the doc and express your concerns and they will send you to a specialist. I must warn you, they are trying to say that ADHD is an extremely mild form of Autism.

I can never hurt to have her evaluated!! If she isn't nothing is lost and you cannow move onto somethings else. If it is you are onthe right track to helping her and you. My son was diagnosed in the begining of this school year, Kingergarden. I always knew he had ADHD but he was always home with me so we found ways to focus and stay busy. Once he started school it was different. With all the kids, he could not focus on his work because he was so distracted. So much so the teacher was going to have him removed from the class to be a SPECIAL class. I opposed and went to the doc. After we started meds his class work was amazing and he started socialing better. It has been a worlwind. I still had issues with the teacher soI changed schools and he has completely evolved and opened up. I believe because of hte persacution from the other teacher he was nervous all the time. Since the change of schools and medication, I have my boy back and he is excelling!!!
Taking the evaluation can hurt.

Hi there,

Could be ALL sorts of things are going on for your daughter. At her age she's a bit young to diagnose ADHD, adn that doesn't really sound like what you describe. She may have some other sort of developmental or behavioral thing going on. It could even be food allergies or sensitivities. You can do specialized saliva tests (not through an MD) for the sensitivities, I have several friends who have had AMAZING results with this.

You could find a good child psychologist and have her evaluated.
Good luck!

Try an all natural diet with no artificial colors, flavors or sweetners. See if this makes a difference in he behavior. AF

First of all, you are not alone and it just may be ADHD...and that's OK. My son is 6 1/2 and was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year but that was after his entire school year of hell. He was always a bit on the hyper side but never like this. After just 2 weeks of 1st grade, his teacher called us in to discuss his behavior. Hyperness, lack of attention, no flexibility when schedules needed to be changed, angry outbursts, angry pouting, it would take him sometimes 2 hours to calm down if he got mad and in that time, he would not participate in class. More than a couple times, they had to have him removed from the classroom because he was just too disruptive for the teacher to continue teaching. I felt bad for her (great teacher!) and for him and for his classmates who were constantly having their learning interrupted because of his actions.
We put him in counseling because nothing we did seemed to help. She ultimately advised us to have him evaluated for ADHD and even to rule out Autism (they have a lot of similar characteristics - I didn't know that then, but I did find out later). We contacted Mt Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore and Kennedy Kreiger also in Baltimore for appointments. There is a 1 year wait list for Kennedy Kreiger so we never even got in there. The wait list for Mt Washington was shorter but still took a few months. Anyway, we finally got the evaluation and they confirmed ADHD but no Autism (thank goodness).
Here's what I recommend. 1) Go to your pediatrician and discuss her behavior. 2) Ask her for a recommendation to a child psychiatrist who can evaluate her properly. OR Contact Mt Washington Pediatric Hospital or Kennedy Kreiger for evaluation appointments. 3) Contact her school, schedule a meeting and in writing, request and IEP Evaluation. This requires the school to do their own evaluation of your daughter and based on the results, develop a Individual Education Plan for her. This will take some time for them to do (the law states they have 30 days to have the official IEP meeting alone) but stick with it. 4) Research ADHD as much as you can so you know not only what you may be dealing with but to also learn some 'tricks' and gain tips on how to react with her.

If you would like to discuss this more, feel free to email me at ____@____.com. I have lots more info and if you live in Howard County, I have loads more info to pass on.
Good luck

You might also want to read the book "Raising your Spirited Child". It offers strategies for dealing with the child who "is MORE intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic". I discovered it after my then 3yr old was referred for testing because he wouldn't sit still for long and had trouble with transitions. He tested normal and we pulled him from preschool for a year and did smaller groups and shorter classes. We still have some issues but at 5 he is doing great. He starts kindergarten this fall and I am less worried than I was a year ago.

I agree with Anne on the RED 40. I recently eliminated it from my son's diet and saw a quick improvement. It is in seemingly healthy things like strawberry yogurt. It is in Doritos. Yellow #5 & #6 can be issues to and are in so many things like cheese. I am also looking into the Feingold diet which eliminates common foods with salicylates (apples, strawberries) and can have quick results.

I first I want to say that there are way to many misconceptions about meds. If you see problems after being on the meds go back to the doctor. My son has ADHD and it took us about 1 1/2 years before we found the right meds and dose. There are so many different types out there and there is no way for the doctor to say this is the one for your child. It is a trial and error. They do the best they can but it is up to the parent and teacher to communicate to help the doctor decide what is best.

Second, I can say, unless it is severe, most doctors will not consider testing until the child is 7. Not all but most. This is due to maturity. After reading your letter though I would call the doctor and schedule a time to discuss what could be going on and should there be an evaluation. Teachers are not to say they think it is anything. They are only to give you their observations of the child. It could be your child has something else like ODD so if a teacher tells you ADHD and it was ODD instead, not good. This is just an example. Not to mention teachers are not doctors.

As a parent of an ADHD child, I would suggest that you call your doctor right away and discuss what should be done. Take all of your facts with you. The brushing the teeth is a HUGE red flag. I had a student who had this and was diagnosed with several things. He had more than just that but if a smell bothered him he threw up on the spot.

My opinion is, if you are concerned talk to your doctor. Do not listen to others about meds. Everyone has different ideas and some do not even understand what the meds are about. When given the right dose and prescription, the meds are very helpful. My son went from D's and E's to A's and B's, disrespectful to respectful, and doing things to intentionally hurt someone to not doing these things. The decision is yours. Good Luck!!!

It might or might not be ADHD. It sounds like she has some sensory integration issues. There might also be other issues at work here. The bottom line is your daughter is exhibiting a problem that is affecting her functioning at school and at home and it ought to be examined. Your best bet is to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician and follow up with an evaluation by a developmental pediatrian and/or a (clinical) psychologist who has expertise evaluating young children and an occupational evaluation. Such assessments are critical in getting more information about the severity of your child's issues and offering recommendations to address the relevant concerns.

Have you had your daughter allergy tested? My son is HIGHLY allergic to REd Dye 40. It makes him very hyper. It is in everything. There is not an offical test for this. I just cut it all out of his diet and he changed. He also gets very crazy with high fructose, so I cut those out. A friends daughter was allergic to wheat and flour. I hate that some teachers and schools just label kids ADHD so they have it easier in the classroom. Please before you place her on meds alter her diet and see if that helps. My son also gets very nasty if he is dehydrated or hungry. He isn't old enough to figure it out always but once he has a glass of milk he changes his attitude.
Good Luck!!

Hi, you've gotta see Dr. Linda Cheeks response on May 27, about a similar situation- a hyper 5 yr. old. Sounds like that will help, if you can try to find a Dr. that is educated in alternative, complimentary medicine, or even a naturopathic Dr. to advise you on supplements, and keep searching, you'll find a better alternative than drugs. My thoughts and prayers are with you, I know this is very hard for you. Z.

Anything is possible and its just best to have her evaluated as soon as possible so that you can get help for her and for you.
She may have adhd, but keep in mind there is severe and mild and Im sure varying degrees of it in between. Some may be able to control symptoms by diet and behaviorial therapy, others might need meds. I think thats the worst part of adhd is finding the right help and/or medication as well as type and dose. Its a long procedure so you have to be patient with it and be willing to try different things and be open about it. Also check into allergies to foods, dyes, and environmental things. They can trigger symptoms as well.
Keep in mind there are lots of other syndromes she could have along w/ adhd or instead of adhd. Impulse control issues come to mind when you mention her being loud and purposely waking your younger one.
As far as meds go, even a low dose might be helpful. Some drugs are so strong or given too much that the child seems depressed and loses his/her appetite. I am sure you will want to avoid this. I would speak w/ other parents with children w/ adhd and find out how they administer meds and find what works for you. My one friend gives her child his meds early in the a.m. so he is good during school hours. That way it wears off way before bedtime and he is able to sleep better. He also does not take the meds on weekends unless they have an event to go to where he needs to stay calm or quiet. So he gets a break on the weekend. I have another friend who chooses to NOT give her child any meds because he seemed too depressed and she is used to him being out of control anyway. Where as I think that is very sad and a little wacky, its her child and she has to live with him. I just limit my time around him for my sanity, lol.
I hope some of this info is helpful to you. Good luck.

I this is a very active 5yr old. My daughter is the same as yours. She's just active and please don't give her a label or try to have medication control her for you. My daughter is going through the EXACT same things she's just learning about her world and controlling what she can. I tell her as far as brushing teeth that getting cavities hurts and fixing them hurts so in order to avoid this we brush our teeth. I don't give in to her and try all different kinds i let her figure it out. She will I don't pamper anything. I let her see the real picture. I give what i give and she either deals well or not but she suffers the consequence that is where the lesson is learned. Good luck

Hi, LQ - First, please let me wish you good luck & to let you know you are not alone! My daughter has ODD; many of the same symptoms of ADHD. Many parents find symptoms become less severe if they remove all the chemicals from the home: Google ADHD + household chemicals. You can also look at saferforyourhome.com for alternatives. In any event, you just need to stand your ground. It can be VERY tough with a child like this; they will do all they can to wear you down, but they need to know you are in charge. Sounds like you are doing great on this score! As far as the teeth brushing goes, while there is fluoride in toothpaste, it is more important to get her teeth clean than it is to use the paste. In other words, tooth paste isn't what gets your teeth clean, it is the mechanical action of the bristles of the brush. She may do well with a "spin brush"; let her choose one that looks like Dora or Cinderella - whatever floats her boat! If money is not too tight, maybe she could have her teeth professionally cleaned more often, and get a fluoride treatment at the dentist more frequently as well. BTW - I am a dental hygienist, by trade. If I can help you with any other information, please feel free to contact me. Best of luck! N.

It is ALARMING to me how many people on this website can render a diagnosis without knowing hardly anything about your child! DO seek quality professional advice (a number of places were mentioned) and your first line of defense is ALWAYS your pediatrician. DO listen to your gut and DO get informed. Information may calm your fears. Do what you think is best for your child (whether that is diet, meds, therapy, whatever) and DO NOT listen to anyone who is judging you on whatever you decide.
Best of luck to you and your family.

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