Could It Be ADHD at Such a Young Age?

Updated on September 17, 2009
C.S. asks from Westlake, OH
17 answers

My almost 3 year old (in Nov.) has always been a very busy baby and toddler. Within the past year he has very definitely hit the "terrible twos". I feel like it is a fight to do anything from cleaning up, to eating, to getting up in the morning, and going to bed at night. He purposely will "not hear" us. He also throws tantrums if he doesn't want to do something (the screaming, rolling on the ground variety). We've learned to ignore these to not give the attention for negative behavior. Timeouts have to be in his room (locked) because he can't/won't stay on the carpet. Recently at school he is acting up as well. He has had difficulty listening to his teachers and this past week chewed out chuncks from a soft football. Needless to say, we are very frustrated and sadened by these behaviors. We also have a 7 month old son as well that we still feel our 2 year old has not completely adjusted to. We are very careful to do things together as a family and also separate to give our 2 year old the attention. It doesn't matter...he wants ALL the attention.

We thought these were just all terrible twos behaviors until some of the more serious things started happening at school. His teachers also mentioned that he has much difficulty staying focused during center and circle time compared with other kids his age. He is on a sticker chart reward system at school which carries over to home. They suggested we might talk with our pediatrician. We know we have an active boy who can also be very sweet and lovable. We want to be able to enjoy him more.

I am not looking to label my child, but better understand what we can do to help him. I read somewhere that ADHD cannot be diagnosed until school age, but could he have it as early as 3 years old? I am just getting concerned that his behaviors are looking different than others his age. We don't want it to affect him socially with others. Any advice or personal experiences would be great. Thanks!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.L.

answers from Cleveland on

C.,
I would love to recommend something so simple. Please feel free to give me a call at ###-###-####

Hope to talk to you soon!
A.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

C.M.

answers from Fort Wayne on

Have you concidered that you have a very strong willed child. I recommend the book "The Strong Willed Child" by Dr. James Dobson.

More Answers

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

P.M.

answers from Cincinnati on

I would steer away from any labels at this point. I know you don't need one more battle to fight however I would recommend removing ALL (or as much as possible) processed, packaged, preserved food from his diet. Often kids react to the sugar and /or artificial colors and flavors that so much of the food we typically eat is full of. It's also pretty addictive which is why it will be tough (but not impossible) to shift. There are two great books on the subject:
Healing the New Childhood Epidemics by Kenneth Bock, MD and The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn OBrien. Both are great resources the second is easier to read and from a mom's perspective.
While changing the way you guys eat is not easy...it's worth the change in behavior you will likely see almost immediately and it's certainly worth not struggling with this for a lifetime. When you start reading labels you will be amazed at what we are calling food these days. Many kids react simply to the dyes that are in food like yellow #5 and red #40.

Let me know if you want any more resources or want support transitioning.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

He sounds like a normal 3 yr old, and very smart. It is hard for toddlers to have a working mom. Make sure he is not in front of a TV for more than an hour a week. Make sure you are paying attention to what he is saying and what you are doing. I have seen parents, unconciously give in to their young kids because it is easier and quicker to get them to leave them (the parent) alone. Consistency is the key. Make sure you, his father and his teachers or caretakers are all punishing him for the same things. Do not lose your temper; just a very firm "no" and if he continues, time out for 15-30 minutes. Children this age also tend to act up when they are tired, hungry, etc. My grandson is very much like what you describe; but when we are firm and dont give in (and believe me it is quite the struggle sometimes) he does finally get the message. A swat to the behind also gets their attention and lets them know you mean business.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

D.T.

answers from Indianapolis on

Yes he's too young! Way too young! Any neuropsych (who are the best trained to do the diagnosis, btw, not your pediatrician or general practioner) will usually not say ADHD until at least age 5. ALL preschool age children show signs of ADHD... some more than others and longer than others. A good doc will wait until a child is school-age for this reason. You can make notes right now and it may help with the diagnosis when he's older, though. Part of the diagnosis of ADHD is that the behavior must be going on for at least the previous 6 months.

There are MANY other behaviors/reasons why your son may be overly active. The common traits of ADHD are common in several other things: Asperger's (rarely diagnosed before age 7 for similiar reasons), a gifted child, etc. It could be environmental.... caffeine, lack of sleep (3 year olds should get a solid 12-13 hours of sleep each night if not napping -- remember that overtired kids are wired and don't act tired - they act like they have ADHD!), color addeditives in food, lack of omega-3s, food intolerances (diary & gluten are very common ones), etc are all linked to worsening ADHD-like behaviors.

When/If you decide to get him evaluated for ADHD please make sure it's a real diagnosis. A doctor can NOT accurately diagnose ADHD by having parents/teachers filling out a little behavior chart thingy (marking often/seldem/never/etc for listed behaviors). ADHD affects the dopamine production in the front part of the brain. Go to a neurophysch who specializes in ADHD and get the extensive accurate testing. You may find out it's another disorder or something altogether... but they will probably say to wait until he's a few years older.

From what you describe he sounds like a normal 2 year old... attention span of a second, too busy exploring the world to sit still for a minute and still mouthing/biting objects. You may want to evaluate the teachers to make sure >they< know what typical 2 year old behavior is! And time-outs are generally not effective until a child is 3-4 years old. Until then, the best way to discipline is by distration and redirection. Time-outs should be just a couple minutes in a corner - not locked in his room. If he moves from the spot (he will - he's too young!) then keep bringing him back.

Good luck... no matter what his diagnosis may end up being, remember that consistency is the key.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

L.R.

answers from Cleveland on

Check out www.rosemond.com.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

R.H.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hi C.,

My sister is a social worker who specializes in child development. I've talk to her about this issue a lot because my daughter is VERY high energy. The "school age" thing typically comes because that is when it can normally be determined if the behavior is disruptive to normal life.... and to what extent.

Much of the behavior you describe does seem like normal toddler behavior. In addition, I think you're right, there are some adjustment issues going on.

First, you need to be FIRM with your discipline. Keep at it. There need to be consequences each and every time a bad choice is made. Even if a time out involves you having your son sit on your lap so he CAN'T get down. He is certainly old enough for a time out. I had to do this with my daughter at first. Now, she will sit in the chair.

Second, try carving out some special time with just him during the day. Let him know you still love him even though there is a new baby in the house. Both you and your husband should do this.

Third, you may want to seek the advise of a child counselor. They can help you with new ideas on how to work with your son. I would try to avoid any medications quite honestly. I have seen how diet, exercise and a patient parent has worked beautifully with ADHD kids. You have to educate yourself and look at all the options and make the best decision for your child.

I know my daughter wouldn't be labled with ADHD at this point ... but she does have a lot of energy. So, we stay away from refined sugars, juices, processed foods, etc... Yes... it's a bit more work and planning to make meals from scratch...but it's better for us all.

www.nourishmd.com

The above is a GREAT website run by a dietitian and a pediatrician. Really good information there.

Good luck. I'm sure it is frustrating. But, I know you can find a workable solution.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

C.S.

answers from Dayton on

Some of my experiences w/ our son may help you to avoid the time delays for treatment that we had w/ him. When he was about 2 years old, I realized that something just wasn't quite right w/ him (acutally, he was a difficult baby from the get-go). He still has some tantrums, at age 6.5, but they were much more horrible when he was younger. I have a masters degree in social work, and am not one to want my child to have a label, by the way. Our son was always so difficult to parent, even using the tried and true methods, taking parenting classes, looking online, reading books, etc. He had OCD symptoms as a toddler, but that diagnosis was ruled out around age 3. Fast foward to preschool and kindergarten... 3 professionals diagnosed him as ADHD, and one diagnosed him as having PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified). He was on ADHD meds for the last 1/2 of kindergarten. The meds helped him in school but the side effects were pretty terrible. He has not been on meds since the last day of kindergarten. This year, in first grade, he has an awesome teacher who respects who he is and does not feel that he needs ADHD meds (I talked to her prior to school starting and we agreed to not try the meds unless he absolutely needs them). My child is on-track, academically (if not advanced), but has social and maturity issues. Look up PDD NOS and see if any of the symptoms apply to your child. Or, look up "autism spectrum disorders" and see if any of those fit. Either way, I believe a visit to a developmental pediatrician, or a good child psychologist, is in order. I don't want to cause alarm or try to label your child, but I waited too long to have mine diagnosed, and would like to have others avoid that.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.J.

answers from Indianapolis on

I would call a child psychologist and get an appointment, just to be sure. Good Luck to you. I want to follow your comments, we too have a "very" active son and we are going to see a child psychologist just to get a base line and see if there is a "diagnois".

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.C.

answers from Cincinnati on

My brother is attention deficient, and I watched him jump through hoops trying to get the right treatment. My nephew was diagnosed with ADHD, also, but in the end, it turned out to be a misdiagnosis, although they didn't know that for years. I can tell you two things. First, ADHD is grossly over-diagnosed. Many kids diagnosed with it are (like my nephew) just regular busy kids with short attention spans whose parents or teachers don't want to deal with that. Medicating these kids only treats the symptoms, not the root problem, and causes more issues in the long run. Having said that, for those who really do have ADHD or ADD, early intervention can make all the difference in the world.

So I would talk to your doctor, ad then possibly get a second opinion, no matter what the first doctor told you. I would also read up on ADD and ADHD. You might also read up on treatments - because there are many NON-CHEMICAL treatments for ADHD kids (ways of getting them to concentrate a bit more, etc.) that you could probably use to help your son concentrate more in the meantime. I would be loathe to medicate him at this age, even if your doctors agree that he has ADHD tendencies. Good luck. It's a tough situation.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

V.A.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hi C.. I feel your frustrations as I have a 3 yr.old son who had very similar behaviors. He would have these terrible, volatile fits that would last anywhere from 15min.-an hour sometimes...usually starting from something like he didn't get to open the door and one thing one lead to another. nothing would calm him unless I gave in to what he wanted in the first place and I was not doing that. I tried to ignore the fit. I tried to redirect him. I tried to be loving and secure him...nothing worked. Of course if he was tired or hungry or thirsty..this was all worse.
One night I was at my brohers and my son had 2 small bowls of fruit loops, which I don't typically buy and about a half hour or so later on our way home, he got set off in the car. Granted, he was tired but this fit was the worst and it had my 6 yr. old sweet girl so upset as well. I thought I was going to have to commit myself to a psych ward. That night though it dawned on me that he could possibly have food dye intolerances/artificial colors. Of course fruit loops have several in them.
I did a little research and found out some good info. I now try to be very careful of what goes in his mouth and let others who are with him know this as well. It has seemed to make quite the difference. I have changed my thoughts ad behaviors as well. I try to stay on step ahead of my son and think " oh Sam might wnat to open the door or push the button or get the milk out etc.." I try very hard to keep him on a schedule and I have been tryin to inneract with him more and defiitely give much praise for the good behaviors. I know this will be a little challenging with a 7 month old, but doesn't hurt to try. Lots of prayers of strength and peace.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.F.

answers from Elkhart on

Hi C.!

My daughter too has had ADHD symptoms since a very young age as well as some other things. We tried the meds route and it was TERRIBLE! She went from the 80th% to the 40th% in weight. We tried Shaklee products with her and WOW what a difference! Not all kids who act as you discribed your child are ADHD or even on the Autism spectrum. Many times your child is reacting to a chemical or something in the environment. Try changing your cleaning products to All Natural Non-Toxic and also watch the foods that he eats. Many Gluten or Casen foods will cause children to act that way, also food dyes...try to keep things as natural as possible. We also found out that our daughter had LEAD poisoning, arsenic, bismuth, Antimony and Tungsten in her system...all heavy metals. We are currently doing a natural detox on her and WOW what a difference! Her focus is better she is less "bouncy" and way more appropriate! Please go online to check to my shaklee website to check this stuff out! www.shaklee.com/amy_healthyconcepts It changed our family's life...it could change yours too!
A.
[email protected]____.com

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.C.

answers from Fort Wayne on

I was going to say the same thing about having a strong willed child. My daughter is very strong willed. I have had to constantly have specific rules on behavior with her ever since she was about 2. It takes total consistency. Without it, she tries to get away with stuff from time to time and if she manages to get away with it, the behavior continues and has to have a stop to it through punishment. Have limits, enforce them. Draw a discipline chart up. Use pictures to let him know just by looking what each behavior will receive punishment, and what that punishment will be. He needs to be able to predict what the consequences are in order to make better choices. I had a chart when my kids were 2 and 3, and it worked wonders. When they acted up, I would tell them to go see what their punishment was, and they would follow through with it. Kids at his age will act out of control if they are able to get away with it. Obviously time outs and ignoring him aren't working, so find something that will work and when you find it, stick with it. My daughter couldn't care less about time outs when she was his age, so I started taking toys away, spanking, or going to bed early. She really hated those and after a few days of enforcing them, her behavior improved dramatically. Even today, she's 7, I still have very specific consequences in place, and from time to time she'll test me to see if I'll let her get away with something. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of consistency, but it's definitely doable! Just remember that when we were young and our parents were young, kids were rarely put on medicine.

Also, to the woman who said no more than 1 hour of tv a week....gimmee a break. I'm so tired of hearing stuff about tv time. I let my kids watch tv as much as they want, and you know what the crazy thing is? They only choose to watch tv about an hour or so a day at the most. Most of the time they're playing together or coloring.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

K.Z.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi C.,

He sounds like he is at the very active end of the spectrum. I can't say for sure about the ADD or ADHD.

I'd recommend reading the book "Raising your Spirited Child". I think the author is Mary Sheedy Kurcinka (although I am not sure; I think the Kurcinka part is right).

Good luck!

K. Z.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.R.

answers from Columbus on

C.,

Make an appointment with a Developmental Pediatrician. Speculation at this point is unfair to your little one, and you have raised serious issues that need the attention of the best professional you can find. Call the nearest Children's hospital, and make the appointment today. It will take several months to get in to see them, but they will call in every other professional you might need to tease out what is going on, give you a plan, and give you answers that you can trust.

Stop worrying about a label, that is the least of your worries at this point and a labael realy never hurt any child. You want to know what his issues are, and what you can do to ease his difficulty, and yes, you may get a diagnosis that you would rather not hear. You are one of the lucky ones, you are asking early instaead of waiting for the most precious element, time, to tick away with out getting him the help he needs.

The very worst thing that could happen is that the developmental pediatrician tells you not to worry about anything, or that he will out grow it, or that it is nothing. What ever you do, don't just wait and see. You will hear many people tell you that thier cousin's next door neighbor was the same way and is now an honor student. While very nice to hear, it has nothing to do with your son. Find out for sure, make the appointment today, and get him the earliest intervention you can find if this is a problem, no matter what they decide to call it.

Been there, done that!
M.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

K.V.

answers from Columbus on

It could be but my ped will not diagnoss add or adhd until a boy is six years of age. Try other holistic treatments, try reading the book "Asthma, allergies and ADHD" it could be food sensitivity. Try the reduction diet first, alot of kids that are sensative to dairy protiens will react like they have add or adhd. Three is way too young to diagnoss either add or adhd. And problems within the family, illness or birth of a child can cause issues. I had an illness last summer that nearly took my life. My then three year old started displaying alot of negative behaviors when at grandmas for the month I was laid up. They continued off and on for a couple of months and he was a totally different child for most of the year. Recently our younger child has been diagnosed with several development imparements and because of the attention that his brother is receiving and all the trips for speech therapy and to see various specialist we have seen our older boys behavior become a bit shaky. But when we make the effort to give him one on one time and validate his needs he is a different child.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

T.D.

answers from Canton on

Have you done any research on Aspergers syndrome? Sounds like he might have some of the symptoms. I'm not sure at what age it is diagnosed though.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions