When Do You Know If Is Adhd/autism?or Just a Normal Hyper Child?

Updated on April 17, 2010
J.P. asks from Brooklyn, NY
22 answers

Ok I have a 3 year old and I know kids go through stages and change is normal. But I have never been around kids and everything looks weird to me, so I don't know what is normal or what needs attention. so far her pedi thinks she is fine but I wanted to ask you mamas. Ok she can sit and watch cartoons for like 20-30 mins alone but then after that she wants to be with me in the room, i tend to leave her alone in the living room. She at times tends to be jumping up and down on the couch like she gets bored while watching tv. I think is normal but she has this time when she will run from the living room to the kitchen or go in circles. ( i have seen that decrease now that she is 3, before it was more often) the other day she threw a tantrum that everyone was shocked. she cried so much she turn red, scream, almost felt off while her dad tried to grab her. I have never seen her like that. she talks no stop and won't shut up about Michael Jackson lol. She saw the Thriller video and OMG. even if u ask her what are u doing? she will bring Michael Jackson into the convo. Why? Why does she keep mentioning something so much and at times makes no sense at all. Im sorry is long I just have lots of questions. she is going to preschool in sept, hopefully.She now has this thing where she will cry if she hears lots of people singing happy birthday. really weird today at church she started t cry cause they sang it. like she cover her ear but she passed her hearing test Thanks moms

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answers from Cleveland on

Normal! When my 3 yr. old hears the birthday song, he smiles and wants me to hold him. Why? I have no idea! He also LOVES the movie "UP" and will talk about it all the time. The first thing he says when he wakes up in the morning is, "Mama, can we watch UP??" I also bet my life that if I let my boys jump on the couch, they would do it all day long! They also love to run around in circles. I wish I had that much energy!! :)

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answers from Jacksonville on

TOTALLY NORMAL...typical 3 yr old...take her outside sometime to expel some energy..being in a house all the time running from room to room can cause any body to feel "trapped"...give her some freedom to do things too, she will throw a tantrum if you don't let her "help"...even if it seem to annoy you or slow you down.

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answers from San Diego on

This all sounds TOTALLY normal. Very very normal.

For adhd at this age you'd be looking for the periods of INTENSE concentration that come along with adhd... so at three, think 1-4 hours of concentration on anything interesting, and screaming melt downs if you tried to pull them away.

You're also not looking at autism at ALL from what you've described. (Aspies are a kind of high functioning autism).

She sounds like a perfectly normal/ healthy/ happy 3yo. Although, fair warning; if you skipped the terrible twos... be prepared for independence seeking (aka the terrible 3's) in your future.

(adhd-c mum to an adhd-c kiddo)

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answers from Los Angeles on

I'm a mom to an Aspie kid, and I'll admit that I see everything through that filter! From what you describe, your child sounds fine! Kids that age do have the occasional tantrum. The only thing to keep an eye out for is more sensory issues. My daughter started covering her ear to things that didn't seem that loud at around 3. In our case, it was an indicator that there was something going on. But that by itself really isn't a concern. See how your daughter does when she starts school. Can she pay pretty good attention? Is she socializing well? If thing seem "off" to you then, then don't ignore that voice inside you and get her assessed. If she seems fine, then she probably is! Quite frankly, I don't know how anyone can properly diagnose adhd or add at 3! I think it comes with the age!


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answers from Detroit on

She sounds like a normal 3 year old. My daughter had so much energy when she was that age. What you might like to do to use up some of that energy is sign her up for a dance class provided she's fully potty trained. I'd also take her out for a daily walk or to the park or the mall. A change of pace keeps them from jumping on furniture:)


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answers from New York on

'Ok she can sit and watch cartoons for like 20-30 mins alone but then after that she wants to be with me in the room, i tend to leave her alone in the living room. '

Encourage her to be involved/ help with what your doing so she gets more mommy time engaged with you so she can learn more about interpersonal relations. Paying attention to TV is not connecting and is thus frustrating to her. Some kids cry with happy birthday because it is a lot of unexpected emotion/attention all at once.

'She at times tends to be jumping up and down on the couch like she gets bored while watching tv.'won't shut up about Michael Jackson lol. She saw the Thriller video and OMG.'

Spend some time reading to her, teaching about many topics and she will have other things to talk about. It will also be easier to listen to her when she talks about other things, she will feel more heard and her behavior will improve.
That all said, she may need a little professional help and you may benefit from the guidance as well. You will get some more ideas just from the evaluation so consider it. Good Luck to you.



answers from New York on

Everything you're describing sounds perfectly normal. Hard to be around long term, but normal! I have a daughter who is almost 5, and she is the same way. All children are different. It sounds like your daughters energy level is just high. Your best bet is to just keep her focused as much as possible. TV isn't going to do it for her. Find project, art, cleaning, etc. that the enjoys doing! Good luck!



answers from New York on

If it was me I would have my child evaluated. Early intervention is free and can put any concerns you have to rest. My son was just diagnosed with PDD-NOS. He is not Autistic but he is on the spectrum. He also cries when he hears happy birthday song and has some of the other behaviors you described.



answers from New York on

Hi J.,
Three year olds have lots of energy and boy can they ever talk. The nonstop talking is totally normal. Preschoolers will run and jump around, this good and normal for them. After 30 minutes, shut the t.v. off. She should spend very little time watching tv and most of her time playing, running around, having you read to her, etc. Little kids will obsess on something that fascinates them and they dont' understand the concept of staying on topic in a conversation. If you're unsure what is normal behavior for a 3 year old, read some books that deal with this age group, take a parenting class, etc.
As for crying or covering ears during singing, many kids have issues where they experience sensory overload. My son would cover his ears during the singing at preschool and when he was asked what his LEAST favorite part of preschool was, it was the singing. He is now 10 and in middle school and plays the trumpet in fifth grade band.
Good luck



answers from New York on

Nothing in your description sounds like a strong sign of any specific diagnosis, just frustrating little kid behavior. My 4 year old can certainly be hyper and disobedient at times and very nice at others. Just being hungry or overtired can be enough to make him act up. You can probably find some child development books at the library or bookstore. Once you have a good idea of typical behavior for 3 year olds then you can talk to you doctor if anything still stands out. Another excellent book is The Difficult Child by Stanley Tureki. It is a book that has been around for years but has a good concept of what personality traits can make a child difficult to manage (as well as suggestions).



answers from St. Louis on

girl!! I have a 4-yr old that is the same way. She fixates on something and for a period of time is obsessed with it. She also holds her ears when she hears certain things...right now its when people LAUGH. I started taking her to a counselor after she was kicked out of the church nursery for being a "bad example." She is very affectionate and kind most of the time but when she throws a fit it is uncontrollable and very embarrassing. I am a strict disciplinarian but NOTHING works for her. I take her to Jeff Johnson in Cape at Associated Counseling. He is AWESOME. He has helped her find ways to vent without acting out. I can tell when she misses an appointment. He has not labeled her with a diagnosis, but did mention that children can have OCD...and that sort of fits my daughter. I thought possibly ADHD. My daughter can sit through an entire 2 hour movie, but they say ADHD kids CAN focus if it is something they WANT to focus on. Who knows, but I used to be one of those judgemental people who talk about others with uncontrollable, bratty kids...and now that's me, and I see firsthand that discipline doesn't always work with some children. We want them to be happy so I think it is a disservice to them not to get help. If it continues, consider atleast trying this counselor. I wanted mine addressed before kindergarten.



answers from New York on

Well, as for the Michael Jackson stuff, it sounds like he has become her "imaginary friend." My 3-year-old daughters always talk about "my grandma" -- but it's not either of their real grandmas. And what they talk about is always a few degrees separated from reality: "My grandma wears a bag on her hand when she walks our dog to pick up his poop" (we don't have a dog). "My grandma always swallows first, and then she chews, so sometimes she chokes." I take it as a sign of a very active imagination -- a good thing!

Good luck,



answers from New York on

Try contacting the "Birth to Three" program in your town if not just to give yourself piece of mind. They can observe her and you would have lots of surveys to fill out on her basic behavior and any changes. Talking to her pediatrician might also help. If you feel something is "off" no harm in checking it out - you are her best advocate. Good luck - my thoughts are with you!


answers from Chicago on

She sounds normal. However, my sons freak out over a lot of noise or singing and they have Sensory Integration Dysfunction. It's something to keep in the back of your mind as she starts school. By, the time school comes around you will know if anything is abnormal. Good Luck. Susana M. ~


answers from St. Louis on

Your daughter sounds VERY NORMAL to me.
Kids of this age don't show a long attention span, and they go to one thing to another (running, coloring, playing with toys, etc...)
My kid does not like the music at church (he cries too); he says is too sad (!!) the same with Lullabies, since he was born he always cried with the Lullabye song; He rather to listen at "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
My little one loooves running in circles, and jumping and going to one place to another in the house. it does not mean at all he has a "behavioral problem" or "syndrome" or else. HE IS NORMAL! and has his own temper and character. A kid being normal is not hyper, is just being a kid. Many children are overdiagnosed with "behavioral problems" (adhd etc...) and they are just normal kid who needs room to play; indoor activities and lots of outdoor time;a good and a healthy diet and lots of patience.
Your kid is very normal, he is expressing himself and he is showing when he is emotional (exactly like mine!)
Don't worry be happy!!!



answers from New York on

She seem sto be responding to her environment normally - watching cartoons for 30 mins is showing her attention span to be healthy however most tv exposure & cartoons are not so healthy for her unless it is something calming & reassuring like Franklin or Blue's Clues or Little Bill. Most children's shows are hyperactive in and of themselves which the children internalize and then exhibit afterwards. THey don't know what to do with all that excess stimulation and energy. Very simiple focused and quiet children's shows for little ones are the only ones my son responded to positively. Also the jumping and running around is normal as children do need a physical exercise outlet. Just make sure it isn't from too much sugar or dairy in her diet - that can cause much behavioral activity like hyperactivity. Lastly - Thriller is scary for a little one - he turns into something like a vampire - it's about a little mini fright video - not scary to an adult but definietly for such a little one. Please screen out her witnessing and exposure to such videos and tv shows and give her a safe reassurring and calming voice and environment.



answers from New York on

Crying during singing: Keep in mind a child who has extremely good hearing will pass a hearing test without any problem. Hearing tests are only to make sure the child doesn't have any hearing loss and not to test how sensitive their hearing is. Your child's ears are probably too good, so that wonderful singing sounds 10X louder to her than it does to us. Of course she's going to cry, because it hurts her ears.

Tantrums: Most children go through this stage. My son did and I found the best method is to ignore them. Let them know you don't understand them, so they have to tell you what they want.

Obessions: Wanting to talk about the same subject all the time like Michael Jackson, is nothing to worry about. It's probably all she has to talk about, since it doesn't really sound like she's doing much. (You mention about watching TV, which gets boring.) She's very intelligent and bored. Some intelligent children will try to find out as much info as they can on one subject and keep talking about it. (My son still does that and he's 11!) Your daughter needs more to do. Have her draw, color, build, help you cook by setting the table. sprinkling sugar on cookies, etc. She's 3...She can learn to read, learn colors, sing the alphabet, learn simple math, etc.


answers from New York on

Your daughter sounds normal. My daughter has ADHD and it involves much more than what you describe and she has never cried when people sing the birthday song or any other song. I have heard of other completely normal kids crying when people sing happy birthday. The other behaviors you describe do not sound unusual to me. You should find a book about what to expect at each stage of your daughter's development. If you are more aware of what is normal you will feel more comfortable with each stage. Enjoy her and don't be so quick to label every little quirk. Three is a tough age!



answers from Florence on

Sounds fine to me. Toddlers/preschoolers are just weird!



answers from Dallas on

mine is 6 and still won't stop talking...lol if excess energy, ck sugar intake. other than that... enjoy this time..:-)



answers from New York on

I have a child who was twice diagnosed with ADHD. Get your child evaluated and then go for a second opinion. If she does have a mental health condition, as you believe, I wish you all the best of luck. It can be very overwhelming. Get books and educate yourself. It's your best defense.



answers from Portland on

It may help you to understand why your daughter's behavior is normal with this explanation. And I do believe, based on your description, that she is normal. Remember that everything is new to your daughter. She is only 3 years old. Also remember that she has lots of energy, given to her by nature, so that she can learn all this new stuff. Also, remember that her brain is in the process of developing. We are not born with a mature body or a mature brain.

One way of learning is to repeat the same thing over and over. And if repeating it is fun we continue to repeat it. The way we feel when we say it or do it is one type of fun. Getting a reaction from someone else is also fun.

Temper tantrums happen because the toddler isn't able yet to moderate their feelings. The get frustrated, they tantrum. How serious the tantrums become depends not only on the toddler's maturity but also on the reaction that they get. The parent;s goal is to help the toddler learn how to control their feelings. First, by ignoring the tantrum, we are not feeding into the desire for attention. Then by waiting calmly for the tantrum to pass we are modeling calm. Then by picking them up and reassuring them that the feeling of frustration and anger is OK we are teaching them it's OK to be frustrated and angry but not OK to throw a fit. We then tell/show them other ways to express those feelings. We have to do this over and over until the toddler matures and learns other ways of dealing with their feelings. But by ignoring the tantrum we are teaching them that throwing a fit does not get them attention and especially does not get them what they want.

It is good that she doesn't stay glued to the TV and gets bored and wants to get her energy out. If jumping on the couch is not acceptable show her something else to do. Running in circles is normal and acceptable in most homes. I remember being in grade school and running around my aunt and uncles house. They had a center island with rooms around it. Running was great fun.

Talking non-stop is normal too. She;'s learning how to talk. Yes, it's nonsense much of the time. Language is new to her. My daughter was a non-stop talker and still is at 29, Her daughter is still a non-stop talker at 9. Some of us are outgoing and talk a lot. Others are quiet and barely say a word. Both are normal unless the toddler isn't learning to talk. My grandson was the quiet, non-talking sort and we thought it was because his sister did all the talking. Turned out he has a speech disability. Now that he's learned to talk, even tho he's still difficult to understand, he's also a non stop-talker. :)

I don't know about the covering her ears for Happy Birthday. My grandson has sensory issues and he covers his ears nearly every time something is loud or of a certain pitch. I suggest that there is something about the song that she doesn't like. I wouldn't worry about it.

But if you want to find out more, you could ask her to draw a picture about the song. Because she also cried I'm guessing there is an emotional component to hearing the song. The song seems to make her feel sad.

Relax and enjoy your energetic, eager to learn little girl.

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