The earliest indicators for ADHD are reports from teachers or other adults who are spending time regularly with the child in a group of similarly aged children and note a significant difference in that child’s specific activity level, impulse control, or ability to stay on task, according to Ankur Desai, MD, a board-certified and fellowship-trained child/adolescent psychiatrist on staff at CentraState Medical Center. Examples of these indicators include:
- Constantly being in motion
- Having a difficult time sitting still or staying in their seat
- Having difficulty waiting their turn
- Excessive talking
- Blurting responses out of turn or frequently interrupting others
- Forgetfulness or frequently losing possessions
- Having a difficult time finishing tasks without frequent redirection
ADHD Gender Gap
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—a brain disorder marked by inattentiveness and impulsivity—largely discriminates. Among school-age children, the incidence of ADHD is between 7 and 9 percent, and the ratio of boys to girls is 2.3 to 1, according to Dr. Desai.
Identifying Symptoms for Early Intervention
“Although hyperactivity is certainly a symptom of the disorder, the true hallmark of ADHD is inattentiveness,” Dr. Desai explains. “Symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulse control problems are often recognized sooner by teachers and parents compared with inattentive symptoms, which can take a little bit longer to identify—especially if the child has a high level of intelligence. Such children may not get identified at a younger age, as it may take longer for them to have difficulties that adults can readily identify.”
In effect, Dr. Desai says, girls with ADHD tend to be identified at a later age because they may not exhibit as many of the hyperactive, impulsive symptoms.
Identification is key to ensuring that children with ADHD go on to lead full, happy lives. Without treatment, Dr. Desai explains, they may grow into adults who have difficulty maintaining jobs and relationships. Hyperactivity typically subsides, but lack of impulse control and poor organizational skills could persist into late adolescence and adulthood. Fortunately, ADHD is treatable with proper medication.
“We have very strong evidence that medication can help ADHD—perhaps more so than many other behavioral health conditions,” Dr. Desai says. “Although medical professionals encourage a comprehensive treatment of psychotherapy and medication—especially if ADHD co-occurs with another behavioral health condition, such as oppositional defiant disorder or generalized anxiety disorder—medication is still the front-line treatment.”
Early intervention is important in order to treat ADHD properly, so it’s critical for parents and teachers to keep an eye out for warning signs in young children. Even though the neurodevelopmental disorder is more common in males, females are not immune to ADHD—their symptoms may just be harder to spot.