What Are Some Early Signs of ADHD?

Updated on September 06, 2011
L.V. asks from Arlington, TX
6 answers

Hi, Mamas!

I have two girls, ages 4 and 1, and I also have ADHD. I have the non-hyperactive (or "inattentive") sub-type. Since a significant component of ADHD is genetics, what kind of "red flag" behaviors should I look for in my girls to suspect ADHD as they get older? My husband, thank goodness, is the opposite of that, so we're hoping they got his ability to focus! LOL I would ask my mother, but she still doesn't believe I have it. *sigh* Long story. Anyway, I don't have very many memories of when I was little. I just know that I have always had an over-active imagination (tee hee), and so does my 4 yr old. Sometimes my imagination kidnaps me and runs away with me for a while. I suspect hers does the same. =) However, having an over-active imagination could just be creativity, not ADHD.

So, mamas, especially those of you who have children with non-hyperactive ADHD (but hyperactives too, my 1 yr old is always on the move (more than most kids)!), what were your clues? When did you start to suspect? This is just one of those things I need to be aware of and be looking for. Thanks, mamas!

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answers from Denver on

I beg to differ from the first responder. There certainly are early signs of ADHD but the problem is that they can mimic the signs of a lot of other things including just being part of the child's natural temperament. So while I was experiencing my daughter's EXTREMELY challenging toddler, threes and fours...I had no idea that these were early red flags. But now you can benefit from my hindsight!

My daughter started going through what we thought were the terrible twos early--around 18 mos. she started having EXTREME temper tantrums.
--She was extremely hard to soothe when upset.
--She would have tantrums over what seemed like the silliest things (low frustration tolerance--plays into school later on)
--She would get so out of control she would bite herself and pull out her own hair while tantrumming--I called them "rages."
--She had night terrors almost nightly, sometimes more than once starting just after she turned two until she was four. She still has them occasionally at almost 6.
--She never had stranger anxiety. She gets giddy and amped up in new situations. Jumps on people she just met, makes weird noises, doesn't listen--cannot stop or get control of herself.
--Sometimes she is hyperfocused on what she is doing and tunes out everything else. ADHD kids can focus on things they are interested in so just because she focuses on certain things does not mean anything. My daughter could NOT focus when I was trying to teach her the alphabet. She was twitching and jumping all over the place.
--At the school Xmas show, she was the only kid turning around and facing backwards, sideways, bothering kids next to her--doing anything but singing. In a spaced out kid, this might look like staring blankly off into space and not singing. And yet at home, she can belt out Tomorrow just as well as Annie herself.

I saw all of these things before she was diagnosed but since she was so young I thought it was all normal "young kid" behavior....and to an extent, some of it is. All kids misbehave, act out, have tantrums, run and jump, etc. but in young ADHD kids, it is EXTREME. If you are the parent leaving playdates crying like I was and wondering what the heck is wrong with your kid....well, it could be ADHD.

BUT, my daughter is extremely bright, social, outgoing, artistic, athletic. Her AHDH is tied into many of her strengths. In fact, on her second day of kindergarten last week, a teacher came up to me and said "I have to tell you, your daughter is EXTRAORDINARY...blah, blah, blah." I was so proud I could have popped. My daughter is either the best or the worst, but there is never a happy medium with our 6 year old ADHD spitfire.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Augusta on

one tell tell sign of ADHD in a young child is they have hyperfocus.
IE they can sit down and do something for hours before you or they realize whats happening .
My daughter is ADHD-c , I am ADHD-I . When she was about 3ish, She had started showing signs of being gifted she absorbed EVERYTHING you put in front of her , one day she was working on a workbook she did the first 45 pages in one sitting, I had to take it away from her to get her to get up and go do something else. Many ADHD behaviors are normal for younger kids which is why I don't trust an ADHD dx before the age of 7.
She didn't sleep the night she was born, she was constantly as a newborn getting out of her swaddling no matter who did it, the nurses couldn't keep her in one. She also didn't sleep all night till she was 3. Dropped naps early , crawled by 5 months, walked before 9 months. CONSTANTLY moving.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

There are absolutely early indicators of ADHD. Our son has extreme ADHD-combined type. Here's what we saw:

At age two:
Like the Energizer Bunny. Nothing tired him out, like with normal kids. He literally was on the move from the second he woke up. He couldn't sit still, except for the Wiggles, which he hyperfocused on. Otherwise, non-stop on the go. He would run by the table to eat; forget sitting -- lost cause. When anyone said their child was also very active, I'd think their child looked like he/she was on sedatives compared to mine. Took hours for him to fall asleep, he had so much energy.

Our son was climbing up on everything at two. He'd move chairs to the kitchen counter and climb up on it the second I went to the bathroom. Climbed on the kitchen table, across coffee tables, jumped on the sofa. Jumping off the fourth stair of our staircase. Out of control. I was chasing him constantly. Didn't respond to any positive reinforcements or punishments. We had to babyproof EVERYTHING. Couldn't take him to restaurants or any public place because he'd be climbing everything and making a scene. Pediatrician watched him in action at an appt. and said, "Let's keep an eye on him for signs of ADHD down the road." Felt like the worst parents on the planet.

Age three:
Same as age two, but now getting in big trouble in preschool. Aggressive, impulsive behavior. Hitting and kicking kids, spitting on teachers, not sitting for circle time, not focusing. Hurting me when he didn't get his way. Felt like I was trapped in an abusive relationship. Tried every parenting strategy out there.

Finally mentioned my concerns to the pediatrician and he immediately referred us to a child psychologist and from there, progressed through Kaiser's system. Still no improvement in our son's behavior. A parent at preschool remarked, "What is wrong with that boy?" in front of our son. He was labeled a "bad kid." The preschool kicked him out. It was only then that we got the magic ticket to see the child psychiatrist, who helped us out tremendously and continues to now that he's eight.

Looking back, the big clue was noticing he wasn't like other kids. It was just so extreme. I felt like a loser parent because I couldn't "fix" his bad behavior like other parents could with their kids. Finally got confirmation that it really was extreme from his teachers in preschool. That, combined with input from the doctors, said, "This isn't normal." Light bulbs started to go off and we were realizing there was some sort of medical issue here. It was a huge relief to learn about ADHD so we could develop a real game plan for helping him, not just at home, but to fit in to society.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My daughter is ADHD but wasn't diagnosed until age 11.
As an infant/toddler she hated the stroller and high chair, she was ALWAYS moving and hated being contained.
As a young child she couldn't sit still in movies or at performances, she was constantly up and down, it drove me crazy.
She couldn't sit through a meal, again, she was constantly up and down (still is!)
She didn't like puzzles, or any activity that required her to sit and focus.
Other than that she was a pretty normal, happy and sociable kid.

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answers from St. Louis on

There are no early signs of ADD. It is structured environments that it shows itself.

They all got in school and the teacher said um we have a problem.

I would wonder why the heck you care. It is not like there is anything you can do until the point where it interferes with school.



answers from Dallas on

I dont know the answer to your question. I would guess, since early intervention is helpful in other disorders, it would be helpful with ADHD as well. I also think that they would benefit even if they didnt have ADHD by some different activities.

It seems like you could talk to a preschool teacher or some other expert and get some activities that would help develop thinking skills children with ADHD would lack and do those with your children at home.

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