11 Common Signs & Symptoms Of ADHD In Toddlers

adhd in toddlers

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Signs and Symptoms Of ADHD in Toddlers:

Your toddler is adorable but braving his tantrums can be hell! Well, toddlers are like that – angels one moment and monsters the very next!

But is there something more serious hiding behind your little one’s non-stop activity? Is he just a busy bee or is his hyperactivity a pointer towards something more serious?

The number of children getting a diagnosis of ADHD is on the rise these days. In fact, 1 in 10 children in the USA today get a diagnosis of ADHD (1). Nobody is sure about the reason behind this surge in the number of ADHD cases. Some feel that the number have not increased, it is just that today we have better diagnosing tools and can catch the problem before it becomes too big.

So, before we look for signs and symptoms of ADHD in toddlers, let’s find out more about ADHD!

What Is ADHD?

ADHD (or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a mental disorder. People with ADHD are commonly impulsive and disorganized. They cannot stay focused and make realistic plans.

Children with ADHD also have low self-confidence and suffer from troubled relationships and poor academic performance.

ADHD Among Toddlers:

Toddlers are notorious for their inability to concentrate. But sometimes what seems like typical toddler behavior may be a glimpse of things to come. According to studies, about 40% of children with ADHD show clear signs of problems related to attention by age four (2)!

That is why it is important to keep a close eye on toddlers and preschoolers to make sure that something serious like ADHD is not hiding behind the mask of normal toddler behavior.

Signs And Symptoms Of ADHD In Toddlers And Preschoolers:

Are you worried about your toddler’s seemingly out-of-control behavior? Do you think he may have ADHD? Well, there are ways to find out!

Though most doctors do not diagnose ADHD in children at toddlerhood, it makes sense to try and catch the problem as soon as possible. The sooner you seek help, the easier it will be to deal with your child’s ADHD. Remember, ADHD today is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder among preschoolers (3).

Here are some telltale signs of ADHD in toddlers and preschoolers:

1. Short Attention Span:

While most toddlers and preschoolers have a short attention span, those with ADHD cannot concentrate on one task for more than a minute or two. So, if you see your toddler avoiding activities that require sitting still for more than a couple of minutes, treat it as a warning sign.

2. Loud And Talkative Behavior:

Is your little one famous as the chatterbox of the group? Does he make more noise than other kids his age? Well, these are also early signs of ADHD.

3. Does Not Follow Instructions:

Toddlers are ridiculously difficult to discipline. But little ones with ADHD refuse to follow simple instructions, even after repeated warnings. So, if your preschooler goes on to climb on things after you tell him not to, and even after he experiences negative outcome, he may have ADHD.

4. Cannot Hop On One Foot:

It is a beautiful sight to watch little kids play. But next time your toddler is playing, watch if he can hop on one foot. Most kids with ADHD cannot hop on one foot by age 4.

5. Constant Movement:

One common complaint most parents with ADHD kids is their constant motion. Little ones with ADHD have a tough time staying still. Is your toddler constantly on the move? Is he kicking or jiggling his feet even while sitting? Does he twist around on his seat? These are all telltale signs of ADHD in toddlers and preschoolers.

6. Fearlessness:

Fearlessness is a wonderful virtue. But for kids with ADHD, it can be the road to injuries! Toddlers with this mental disorder often get into dangerous situations due to their lack of fear. No matter how many times a toddler falls from the couch and hurts himself, he will do it all over again. It is almost as if they have no concept of pain.

7. No Stanger Anxiety:

Most toddlers suffer from stranger anxiety. But those with ADHD take next to no time to warm up to strangers! So if you thought your toddler is super friendly, well, it actually may be a pointer towards ADHD!

8. Aggressive Behavior:

Toddlers with ADHD often display aggressive behavior with their peers. Many even end up dismissed from playschool or daycare because of their aggression.

9. Frequent Injuries:

The fearless attitude we discussed above also leads to several injuries among toddlers with ADHD.

10. Sleep Disorders:

Toddlers with ADHD often experience sleep disorders (4). If your toddler wakes up at night frequently and has trouble falling back to sleep, it may indicate a deeper problem.

11. Cognitive Delays:

Toddlers and preschoolers with ADHD also display poor motor control and working memory compared to other kids of their age. They seem to have no problems with verbal learning memory or picture identification (5).

It is normal for toddlers to exhibit one or two of these signs. But if your toddler’s behavior encompasses a majority of the points mentioned here, there is a high chance that he may have ADHD.

So, seek an appointment with your doctor if you suspect that your toddler may have ADHD. Timely intervention and treatment can go a long way towards giving wary parents some relief while helping their kids lead a normal life.

How Is ADHD Among Toddlers Treated?

Toddlers and preschoolers are too young to go on medication. It is always a better idea to explore other options before putting your kid on drugs in any case.

With regular parental training and school-based intervention, ADHD can be managed to a large extent among toddlers and preschoolers.

Apart from that, there are some steps you can take to manage this debilitating mental disorder and find some form of normalcy at home!

  • Use behavior management techniques. Use a reward system to provide your child with additional motivation.
  • If you tend to lose your temper easily, learn to stay calm. Children with ADHD do not respond to anger. In fact, your anger will only make matters worse.
  • Look for activities that appeal to your child and encourages him to settle down, even if for a little while.
  • Music is a great way to soothe an ADHD toddler.
  • Help your toddler burn off his extra energy, especially if you have a party or outing planned.
  • Don’t put your child in situations that require extended periods of sitting quietly. Watching a movie with an ADHD toddler is a bad idea!

Finally, relax! Taking care of a child with special needs is hard work. You need to stay healthy and positive if you want your little one to live up to his potential.

So, no matter how tough it gets, and it will get tough with an ADHD child at home, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Have you noticed any other symptom of ADHD in your toddler? How do you manage your hyperactive child? Share your tips with other moms!

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  • Niharika

    Dear Bergan, a research has shown that a brain region called the caudate nuclei is smaller in children with ADHD than in other children. The region is responsible for motor skills and cognitive control. For 4-year-olds, an inability to hop on one foot can be treated as one of the many signs or signal to this disorder. Inability to hop on one foot is not the only criteria to diagnose ADHD in children.

    • Bergan Well

      Thanks!