Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood.
Children with the disorder have trouble paying attention and often display hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. These characteristics affect the child’s relationship with family, friends and teachers.
Most children with ADHD are diagnosed during their time at elementary school and the average age of diagnosis is 7 years. Children with mild symptoms are usually diagnosed at around 8 years, and those with severe ADHD tend to be diagnosed earlier, at 5 years, medicalnewstoday.com reports.
In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) expanded their guidelines for diagnosing and treating ADHD from children aged between 6 and 12 to include preschoolers and adolescents aged 4-18. However, there are no clinical guidelines to diagnose children under the age of 4.
Possible causes and risk factors for ADHD in toddlerhood include: genetics, mother using drugs, alcohol, or smoking during pregnancy, or exposure to environment toxins during pregnancy; premature birth or low birth weight; and central nervous system problems at critical moments in development
One study shows that a third of children with ADHD had speech development delays at 9 months old. Two thirds experienced a delay in speech and language at 18 months old.
Some researchers suggest that the disorder can be reliably diagnosed in children through evaluations as soon as they turn 3 years. A study of school-age children notes that mothers reported symptoms of ADHD beginning at or before age 4 in two thirds of the children.
It is hard to notice symptoms of ADHD in children younger than 4 years since at this age they go through rapid change.
Children who have a lot of energy, or are very active, and do not have ADHD can usually focus when necessary for stories or to look through picture books. They are also able to sit and do a puzzle or put toys away.
However, children with ADHD are often unable to do these things. They may exhibit extreme behavior that disrupts activities and relationships. They must also display these behaviors for at least 6 months in more than one setting, such as at home and nursery.
Short attention span, impulsivity, tantrums, and high levels of activity are normal during certain stages of development. If a parent or caregiver thinks that their toddler is displaying behavior that is excessive, intense, frequent, and affecting family life, they should speak with the pediatrician for evaluation.