“Every parent with a fidgety child immediately thinks their child has ADHD.”
Zoom! Bouncing from room to room, your kid is always on the move. Even when he’s sitting, he’s moving his feet and playing with, well, anything and everything that’s in front of him. You know that most kids are little balls of energy, but your kid seems to be incapable of sitting still. You wonder: Is my kid just really fidgety, or could he possibly have ADHD?
“Almost every parent with a fidgety child immediately thinks their child has ADHD,” says Alok Patel, MD, a pediatrician at New York Presbyterian-Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. That’s because most children can be a little hyper when they’re young, says Dr. Patel.
ADHD vs. Being Fidgety: How to Tell the Difference
Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is an umbrella term that describes kids who have various challenges with inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
Inattention: A child who’s inattentive will have a hard time focusing. “They’ll be easily distracted when a teacher is talking to them or if a parent is talking to them,” says Dr. Patel.
Impulsivity: If a kid is impulsive, they’ll just do whatever they want, even if it’s inappropriate, says Dr. Patel.
Hyperactivity: Kids who are hyperactive may not be able to sit still. “They’ll get out of their chair in class, they’ll go running around, they’ll get out of line, they’ll talk in the middle of someone else conversation,” says Dr. Patel.
Depending on what symptoms present the strongest, doctors will diagnose the child with one of three ADHD subtypes: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, or combined. Learn more about how doctors diagnose ADHD.
What differentiates a kid with ADHD from a kid who’s fidgety is how the symptoms affect the child’s ability to function in everyday life. Kids with ADHD may get sent home from school for their behavior, and parents tend to get a lot of complaints from people the child interacts with, like teachers, coaches, or babysitters. “It’s really, really disruptive to life for the entire family,” says Susan Samuels, MD, a psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.
Symptoms of ADHD also tend to be more apparent as the kid gets older, around 5 to 7 years of age. “Because now that they’re older, they have rules, and the kids with ADHD don’t always follow [those rules],” says Dr. Patel.
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It's almost like every parent with
a fidgety child immediately thinks their
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child has ADHD.
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attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,
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is a set of disorders that describes kids
that have challenges with hyperactivity,
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impulsivity, and possibly inattention.
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Kids with ADHD are different from
kids that are just kinda fidgety,
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because it's really getting in
the way of them functioning in life.
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So they are getting sent home from school,
or your getting lots and lots of calls
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from the teachers, and it's really, really
disruptive to life for the entire family.
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So when we think about inattention,
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we think about the fact that the child
will not actually be able to focus on you.
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And they'll be easily distracted
when a teacher's talking to them or
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if a parent's talking to them.
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The thing about hyperactivity,
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the child will not be able to sit still
even at times when it's inappropriate.
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They'll get out of the chair in class,
they'll go running around, they'll
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get out of line, they'll kind of talk in
the middle of someone else's conversation.
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Then you have impulsivity.
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They kinda just do whatever they want
even if it's an inappropriate time.
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Some of these symptoms actually might
present themselves as children get older.
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When children are really young,
they're kind of all hyper.
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They don't really have any rules.
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But it's showing at older,
five, six, seven years old, and
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that's really the time period where we
start to see some of these behaviors
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kind of present themselves, because now
they have order, now they have rules, and
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the kids with ADHD don't
always follow them.
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So when you have symptoms like this and
you actually hear complaints from school,
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a coach, someone that's around the child,
a babysitter, and it's happening at home,
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those are warning signs
a parent should think about.
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