Does My 5 Year Old Son Have a Disorder?

Updated on May 26, 2010
K.F. asks from Minneapolis, MN
20 answers

My son just turned five a couple of weeks ago. He has been in preschool this entire school year and has struggled with what his teachers call "entering playgroups" and interacting with the other children appropriately, making friends etc. In all other area's he has excelled except socially.

An example of what he does is do inappropriate things to try and get other kids attention ie: he will go up and pinch a classmate or say something inappropriate (potty words) to get the other children's attention and get them to laugh. When presented with a few kids to play with he immeidately takes on the role of "bad guy" and chases them. At the beginning of the school morning, he will almost NEVER go up to any of the kids during free time and talk to them or try and play with them. He maybe will if someone comes up to him, but I have noticed as the school year as gone on, that no one really comes and asks him to play either. At school, he doesn't really have a "friend" that he talks about or plays with.

I brought up these concerns with his Pediatrician at his 5 year well check and he brought up this sounding a bit like a component of ADHD. He handed me a pamplet about ADHD but I feel like I need a little more direction than that. Does this sound like ADHD?

He has always been a very shy child and very much an observer in any situation. I hate to see him not being invited over to friend's house, and he notices that he doesn't get asked, but am clueless as to how to work on this with him.

Does anyone have any suggestions on where to turn? His teacher has been working on it with him at school but hasn't seen a lot of progress all year. Is this behavior familiar to anyone? I really want to help him, but am not sure how.

Thank you!

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

So What Happened?

Thanks everyone, this is giving me a lot of ideas. I just wanted to add to answer someone who brought up other issues. He is very sesitive and can be very emotional if he doesn't get his way. And it may be nothing, but he doesn't like loud places. Example, over this last weekend we as a family went to the Twins game. He wanted to leave the second we sat down. He was very uncomfortable and said it was too loud, he didn't like it there and wanted to go home. It took him a couple of innings of the game to get comfortable enough with his surroundings to sit on my lap and talk about what was going on in the game. Over the winter he went to a Wild game with my husband and he told me that he reacted the same way at that game as he did the other day. Not sure if that is related at all.

Also, anyone know of/used a great play therapist?

Featured Answers



answers from Los Angeles on

My daughter has Asperger's and is extremely socially awkward too! However, she has other issues, like some sensory issues, and is she is extremely rigid. If things don't go her way, she'll tantrum! Does you son have any issues other than being socially awkward? If not, then play therapy may be just the thing for him!


More Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

It amazes me how quick we all are to try to diagnose a child these days! Is there a such thing as a socially awkward child today without a diagnosis or medication to go with it--and therapy too?
I am a Registered Nurse and have a 12 year old son. Your son sounds so much like him at that age. I had teachers suggest he get "tested" in preschool. I didn't do it. He's phenominally smart and loves to get attention. Any kind. He grew out of this behavior is now a smart, charismatic boy with a ton of friends and something of a role model for other boys his age. At least that's what his teachers say. But boy! did we have issues up until about 3rd grade. I saw him act inappropriately SO many times but just watched as teachers only wanted him to conform to THEIR standards of what a "good child" should do. He knew it. And he rebelled by acting out. Smart kid.
I don't think there's anything wrong with an evaluation, but I personally hesitate to put labels on a child at such a young age when so much is new and foreign still and it's a boy's nature to test boundaries. Personalities are all different and we should embrace them, not try to harness and break them! Unless you are extremely worried and the behaviors are harmful, I'd do a "wait and see" on this one.
Best of luck to you and your family.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Killeen on

I think is he just social immature and I wouldn't worry about it much. My son was at this age. He was a mess when he was in pre-k and I worried about him all the time- but he is older now, and much better. He will learn how to "enter the playgroup" as he gets older. His teacher should be more aware and able to assist with his transition. My son has a wonderful teacher that would create an activity with my son (like doing a puzzle, or build a castle) and then invite the other kids to come and play with him- that was great and he was able to interact with the group and didn't have to "enter" the group.
Help him find things that he has interests in and get him excited about them to build his self-confidence so he will feel that people will want to talk to him and play with him. You can also role play with him about what you would you do when you want to play with someone. Like with puppets, or stuffed animals or just mom and dad.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I would suggest first trying some behavioral interventions to teach him how to play appropriately. For some children, they really want to interact, but don't know how. Let's face it... negative attention is better than no attention!

I would seek-out a play therapist in your area and see if he/she has any groups running. Your son may need to be taught how to play. For most kids it comes naturally, but for some it just doesn't.

As for having ADHD, he's a little young for that diagnosis. Talk with the teacher and see if she feels like the behaviors are impulsive or attention-seeking.

At home, I would make sure that he has the opportunity to interact with children in a structured and supervised manner. Have one child over and do a craft of cook together. This will allow you to intervene immediately and help you son make good choices. If he's being aggressive, there should be a consistent consequence for those actions as well!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bismarck on

My son had many of the same behaviors at that age. By first grade he was diagnosed with ADHD and by second grade he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Asperger's Syndrome is on the Autism Spectrum so these kids can exhibit some classic autism symptoms but they are usually very high functioning and many times go undiagnosed for a long time. Kids with Asperger's struggle more in social situations and they can become very fixated on certain things, such as objects or routines.

If you want a very candid look at typical Asperger's watch the new NBC series "Parenthood". One of the kids in that show has Asperger's and you can see how the parents deal with the initial diagnosis as well as how they adapt to raising this child.

My best advice to you is do not focus on what is "wrong" with your child. I think kids get labeled too quickly these days and sometimes those labels can follow them for a long time. (However, if he eventually needs special services at school a diagnosis might be necessary). At his age I would focus on really getting to know your child and learn what strategies work for him. Spend some extra time teaching him social skills and encourage him to take on simple tasks such as ordering for himself at a restaurant. You will likely find that it works best to adjust your parenting style to fit his learning and understanding.

This could be just a stage that he will outgrow soon or it may be something more but no matter what, just remember it does not define who he is. I've always looked at my sons many diagnosis as an arrow to point me in the right direction so I know how to best help him.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

You could just have a shy child and there's nothing wrong with that. He may be the kind to develop a couple close friends instead of many many friends. Humor a great strategy to win new friends-- but you may want to direct him toward more clean jokes, and show him some games where he gets to be "the good guy."

FYI to all moms: Did you know that symptoms of ADHD are very much the same as for sleep deprivation? If your child (or YOU) is not getting enough sleep-- whether due to long summer days, TV, or texting all night-- they may produce weird "symptoms." Make sure everyone is getting enough quality sleep! (See Dr. Leonard Sax's web page:

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

There are so many different things that include social awkwardness as a component (including just being naturally shy or immature) that it's hard to say. Since your son is already 5 years old I think you should see a developmental pediatrician to evaluate all his behaviors to determine if there is something like ADHD or Aspergers involved. I think you should get the evaluation just to be sure. If there is something going on it's important to find out early and get the appropriate therapy started. If there is nothing going on, then there is no harm done by having the evaluation.

Good luck,



answers from Cedar Rapids on

Hi K.- Your son sounds so much like my 6-yo. He just started kindergarten this year and had a bit of a rough time. My son is very touchy-feely so has struggled with grabbing/hugging/touching. We have had to learn that it is great to want to give someone a hug but before we do that we need to ask if it is ok first. My son also tried to be the center of attention and has learned that while it may be fun and cool when the kids laugh, in the end they don't want to play because he was the one always in trouble. He has also worked on his habit of wanting what he wants right now and not throwing a tantrum when he has to wait. There were many times he told me that no liked him and he had no friends. But when I asked his teacher she said sometimes it was because of his troublesome behavior. And usually he always really did have friends, they just might not be doing what he wanted to do.
My son's kindergarten teacher was absolutely awesome. She really worked with him on his meltdowns and learning new ways to express himself. Honestly, I do not believe your son has ADHD. Some of my friends would bring that up also in my situation. That diagnosis is used way too much as a catch-all for more rambunctious children. Just keep reminding your son the proper behavior in situations and make sure you are stimulating him if he doesn't get the opportunity to play with friends. Socialize him in playgroups, join the YMCA and have him play T-ball or swim lessons or flag football. Take him to parks so he plays with kids he does not know well. The more comfortable he is around others will reflect in his behavior as he gets older. Good luck!



answers from Philadelphia on

HMM adhd for being socially awkward. I would take him to a neurologist. If you need a referral call your ped if not I would just make the appointment. It can take a while. Tell them your concerns and the neurologist and they will tell you if he has ADHD or not.



answers from Madison on

It sounds like your son has issues with social interaction. So does my 10-year-old daughter. She has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) (lots of different types of issues with that; my daughter falls into a number of categories), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, anxiety, and is highly-sensitive. Bright lights and loud noise really, really bothered her when she was little, as did certain clothes textures/materials. She also has a spatial-relations problem.

It's the SPD that is the contributor to the social problems. However, she is highly intelligent and has no other disorders, like ADHD or Asperbergers, etc.

It's best to figure out if that is what your son has, so you can get him the socialization help he needs. My daughter has been seeing a Childhood Specialist since Kindergarten, and that really helps her talk through issues and learn how to approach her peers. (She's an only child, so having no siblings to interact and "fight" with doesn't do her any good.)

My daughter isn't invited to many parties, but she has managed to amass a small group of friends that she hangs with and plays with on the playground. Of course, she'll tell me she has no friends, but her teacher assures me that she does, and that she has made tremendous strides in working with her peers and figuring out ways to handle problems.

It's an ongoing, continuous struggle, but an important one, as being able to be socially aware and integrated lasts well into adulthood and the working world. Good luck.



answers from Charlotte on




answers from Columbus on

If this is his only area, and you were to just describe that, ADHD would not occur to me. While some kids with ADHD may do some of what you describe, they also have many other disctinctive concerns that cause these kinds of behaviors, and you would generally be seeing those too.

The only thing that I would see that is simular to an ADHD behavior is that he has continued with a strategy that is clearly not working for him. It may be too, that he has tried bad strategies as a shy child to engage his peers, and they have just rejected him and he does not know what to do instead.

If you are looking for help to tease out what it is, and how to help him, you might try a play therapist for a few sessions. He might open up to them a little more than you, and they can help him with some strategies that will be more successful. Then, find a new crop of kids for him to try the new techniques on, and see if it is better.

If it does turn out to be a disorder, most things you try will keep you pointed down that road, but from what you say, I don't think you have too much to worry about.


Ask your pediatrician for a referral to a play therapist. I would also suggest that you tell the therapist about his sensory issues, while it is still not a lot of information to go on, having more than one area of concern might warrent a more comprehensive evaluation. I would ask someone who spends some time with him if they would recommend it too.



answers from Des Moines on

This doesn't sound at all like ADHD to me. i think your pediatrician just blew you off. Maybe Aspergers but I'd highly doubt ADHD. When you read the pamphlet did it sound like your son? I would guess not. There are lots of social disorders out there that might shed some light on your sons inability to make friends. The school psychologist should be able to help point you to some services in your town that can help to diagnose him if there is a diagnosis to be made. Another thing to consider is that your son is still very young and while his brain may be ahead of his chronological age, he may still be quite immature socially. They may even out eventually, but the question is how to keep him out of trouble in the meantime. I'd seek some help from a child counselor/psychologist.


answers from Dallas on

Your second post are symptoms of Aspergers, but it would probably be best to get tested, maybe even before choosing a therapist, so that you can choose someone with experience in what you need. Check with Children's Hospital in your area and get some recommendations on a good place to go for testing.



answers from Minneapolis on

Sounds like Aspergers to me.



answers from Eugene on

I would get him evaluated for the issues that are present. I am not sure what resources you have there, but we have CDRC, the Child Development Resource Center. It takes a whole day and the child is seen by many different specialist. I would ask his dr. for a referal. I, personally, would have more than just one dr. evaluate him. WHen they do evaluations they usually have a pediactric specialist, phychologists, Occupational Therapist or a few more specialist. It is nice to have the different specialist to collaberate and see what is all going on.. Best of luck to you. Maybe the MAYO clinic can help with that? Also, for me, getting your child diagnosed may main a "Label", but with that information you are able to deal with it and learn how to best help your child. My daughter has autism and I had a dr once say, why do you want to label your child? For me, I would rather know what is going on so that I can educate myself on being the best I can for my child.. Knowlegde is power!



answers from Dothan on

Social awkwardness is very hard. It doesnt mean they have ADHD, but more leaning towards anxiety issues. Anxiety can come out as anger towards others sometimes. I also see what you are saying as he is not very bright when it comes to breaking the ice. Have you taught him how to start social situations properly? Did he learn this behavior from daycare/preschool or some other adult. Look at his surroundings and see how he chooses to deal with social situations, are other kids mean to him? My point of view, time to get back to reteaching him social skills though it takes time and feel more towards anxiety and not ADD/ADHD, though i could be wrong. His attention isnt the problem but his awkwardness. Sports is always a good teacher more so than anything else, does he play sports?



answers from Minneapolis on

A formal evaluation is definitely in order. You can ask your ped for a referral, or contact Children's or Gillette. You can also go to a place like The Therapy Place ( and have an OT assessment done without a doctor's referral - that may help identify if there are sensory issues going on. This whole ADHD/Autism/Sensory Integration world can be tricky, and there is often *not* a firm and clear diagnosis at this age. But that doesn't mean behavioral therapy interventions can't be incredibly helpful, and perhaps avert the need for other interventions later down the line. Have you done the pre-K ready-for-school evaluation yet? That can be another place to get some resources. Call your school placement center and they can direct you to the right place. (I would know where to tell you to call in Saint Paul, but it'll be different in Minneapolis - but it's the state-mandated evaluation, so there will be some place to do it.) Good luck!



answers from St. Louis on

I would think that if the pediatrician had information concerning this, that he would have refered you to someone who could help rule out or diagnosis ADHD. I would call the nurse back and ask. Also, most school have social workers who can help or guide you in the right direction.



answers from Duluth on

I've read your answers, because, while my son's social awkwardness is not quite the same, he also does things--like acting outrageously goofy--to get attention, and I think he winds up turning kids against him, rather than befriending them. He is VERY sociable, but I think struggles with making friends. Some thoughts I have regarding my own child...take it or leave it, and certainly I'm not saying others with more serious diagnoses are incorrect; it's all just food for thought.

My son is very, very sensitive. Nobody would know it, though, because he's very, very loud. Ironically, though, loud things bother him, a lot. The first time he went to a movie--last year, at 5--with his dad, he wound up leaving before the opening credits because he was crying in a ball sitting on the seat of the theater, saying he wanted mommy. Too loud, too much. He is VERY cautious about new situations. His closest buddies, the twins next door, had a birthday party. He is also good friends with their older sister, and knew the whole family would be at the party. That wasn't enough; we had to get a list from dad of who all would be there, so he'd know if he'd be comfortable. AND I had to stay with him until he was in his element. He didn't even want to go to the party--and it was a swim party!! Anyway--he is very capable in all other aspects of school, and, if I'm honest, his dad and I didn't have the easiest time socially, either. So...we're working with his teacher, teaching him precise ways to make friends and interact (it's a lot more instinctive for other kids; for him, we have to be very specific) and are hoping for the best. I suppose if it doesn't get better, I might consider going to a doctor with it, but his ability to concentrate during academic stuff indicates to me it's probably not ADD...but then again, who knows? Good luck!!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions