Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder

Parents all over the world want to know the symptoms of attention deficit disorder. Sometimes questions race through their minds such as:

  • Is my child normal?
  • Does he have ADD or ADHD? (boys are diagnosed 3x more often than girls)

  • Can she succeed in school when she daydreams so much?

As loving, caring parents, we all want the best for our children. And we tend to worry when things aren't going as smoothly as we had hoped.

If concern mounts enough to seek help, often parents will go to a doctor for a diagnosis.

What many parents don't realize, is that a "diagnosis" of ADD or ADHD is based on a checklist of characteristics. In other words, there is no test that will tag your child with this disorder.

Attention Deficit Disorder Checklist

Doctors will generally have parents fill out a checklist of observable symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD.

An interview may also take place to determine how long this behavior has been going on, and how pervasive it is. In other words, does the "zoning out " or hyper behaviors interfere with functioning at home and school?

The American Psychological Association lists 14 symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (and ADHD). At least 8 must be present before a diagnosis of ADD will be made.


    • Often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming while seated

    • Having difficulty remaining seated

    • Having difficulty awaiting turn in games or group activities

    • Often blurting out answers before questions are completed

    • Having difficulty in following instructions

    • Having difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities

    • Often shifting from one uncompleted task to another

    • Having difficulty playing quietly

    • Often talking excessively

    • Often interrupting or intruding on others

    • Often not listening to what is being said

    • Often forgetting things necessary for tasks or activities

    • Often engaging in physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences

    • Being easily distracted by extraneous stimuli

Three Categories of Attention
Deficit Disorder in Children

There are 3 main categories of Attention Deficit Diagnosis. They are:

  • Inattentive
    This is what we usually call ADD, or simply, Attention Deficit Disorder. It is generally characterized by a child who appears slow or disinterested. They may daydream or "zone out" on a regular basis, and not pay attention to what is being said.
  • Hyperactive /Impulsive
    This type is what we call ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As most of us can surmise, this is observable through extreme fidgeting, impulsivity, or if you need a word picture, a whirling dervish of activity - similar to the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character.

    An obvious disadvantage to learning with this escalated activity level is the seeming inability of the child to even sit still for more than a brief moment, let alone absorb and focus on retaining new academic information.

  • Combined Type
    This type of Attention Deficit Disorder combines symptoms from both categories above. You might see apathy and disinterest at one time, and hyperactivity at another time. In addition, you may be unable to predict when you will see either set of symptoms.

ADD and Learning Problems

The symptoms of attention deficit disorder often are accompanied by anxiety issues and learning disabilities. The presence of all of these factors can make learning feel like an overwhelming proposition to a child.

Testing to determine what issues are present is extremely important. Learning disabilities, once they are addressed and help begins, may result in a reduction of other symptoms.

There are many theories as to the "why" of attention deficit disorder symptoms. There could be dietary factors, genetic factors, family dynamics considerations, and teaching factors present.

But in our desire to "fix" the problem in a quick and easy manner, let's remember that the root of the issue must be found and dealt with effectively. Simply prescribing a drug for an overactive child will never resolve this complex issue.