What Are The Symptoms Of Adhd In Toddlers?
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What Are The Symptoms Of Adhd In Toddlers?

ADHD Children are typically diagnosed around age 5. However, there are ADHD symptoms in toddlers that may give some indication that they are struggling with the disorder. My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 3. It is often hard to tell if the symptoms are lingering from the “terrible two’s” or if they are actually symptoms of ADHD. My advice would be to write down what you’re seeing that concerns you and to discuss it with your child’s pediatrician. The following symptoms may indicate that your toddler has ADHD:

Trouble sitting still – My son could not sit still. When seated in a chair, he would squirm and fidget. When sitting down for meals, he would get up constantly or climb all over the chair.

Unable to follow simple directions – When I would tell my son to clean his room, for example, he could not do it. I learned to give him smaller steps, one at a time, to get the overall task done. Step 1 would be to pick up his toys. Step 2 would be to pick up his books. Step 3 would be to pick up his movies, and so on.

Impulsiveness – A daycare teacher once explained to me that the kids were sitting in circle time to have a story read to them. She said suddenly my son turned to the boy next to him and scratched the boy’s face. He immediately started crying and apologized and he looked shocked that he did it. She said it was obvious he didn't mean to, it was just like something came over him and he didn’t know why he did it. He was very impulsive, and this is an example of an impulsive moment.

Become angry for no reason – My son will often become angry or overly frustrated at small things. There was a time we were working on a wooden puzzle. The pieces were large and age appropriate but he was having trouble getting one to fit in its place. He threw the entire puzzle and gave up completely.

Hitting or kicking – This goes back to impulsiveness. Often times, toddlers will hit, kick, or scratch their peers or siblings and will not have a reason for doing so. It won’t be a fight between the two, it will be more of an impulse where they did it and can’t explain why. They just kind of “felt” like it.

Impatient – The ADHD brain has so many things going on that it is extremely hard for the brain to focus on one thing. The ADHD toddler wants what they want and they want it right now. You can’t do anything fast enough and it can become a big deal to them.

Cutting in line – This goes back to impatience. They have a lot of trouble waiting their turn for anything. They want it right now.

Interrupting – The ADHD brain moves fast. My son would often walk into a room blurting out a question or comment whether two people were conversing or not. He still interrupts a lot now at 9 years old. His brain just doesn’t register that two people are talking and he needs to wait his turn.

Constantly Moving – Again, while seated, toddlers will squirm and fidget. When not forced to stay seating, they are always on the go. They are constantly running, jumping, and climbing on anything they see. My son was climbing on his chest of drawers one day which caused it to tip over and the TV on top came tumbling down on top of him. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt. It just scared him.

Jumping from one activity to another – ADHD toddlers will rarely finish one task before moving on to another. It is just too difficult for them to stay focused on one task as their brain is constantly moving and is easily distracted.

Low sense of danger – One of the biggest fears of ADHD parents is knowing that, at some point, our children are going to cross the street. No matter how many times I taught my baby boy to look both ways before going into the street, he always just ran out into the street without hesitation. There was one time a car almost hit him because he bolted out into the road in front of the car. He was 3 years old and we were playing in the front yard. Thankfully, he wasn’t hit.

High threshold for pain – With ADHD toddlers constantly running, jumping, and climbing, there are lots of falls. Their little brains move faster than their little bodies. They trip a lot. Often times they will get right back up and keep going when you’re expecting them to start screaming and crying. My son bumped his head on the corner of a wall one time which cut his head pretty deep. Blood was pouring out of his head but he wasn’t crying, he was still trying to run around.

Refusal to sit in strollers or shopping carts – Once my son began to walk, there was no chance of ever getting him to stay in a stroller again. Same thing with shopping carts. He wants to run, jump, and climb. There is no chance of buckling him down without the whole store knowing how mad he is about it.

Temper tantrums – Yes, it’s true, all toddlers have these. There are just a few slight differences with ADHD kids. With non-ADHD children, if you ignore the outburst, it usually stops until you’re paying attention again, or you’re able to get them to stop with discipline. With ADHD toddlers, it’s all or nothing. Once the fit starts, they’re going to give it their all whether you pay attention to it or not. If you scold them it continues, they keep going if you spank them, they won’t stop when you tell them to calm down, they may not even stop if you give them their way. A piece of advice here, DO NOT back down and give in! With my son, he simply didn’t know how to stop the fit. He didn’t know how to calm down. I had to get down to his level and calmly tell him to stop, take a deep breath, and relax. Once I did that, it worked every time. Now, at 9 years old, he does that on his own when anybody upsets him.

If your toddler is displaying a lot of the symptoms above, be sure to write down what they are doing and how often. Providing this information to your pediatrician will help them to determine what is really going on with your child. A side note, while these are symptoms of ADHD, they can also be symptoms of something else as there are other diagnoses that mimic ADHD. A few examples are epilepsy, autism, and Asperger’s. This is why it is especially important to document anything you have concern about to be discussed with your child’s pediatrician.


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