ADD/ADHD is difficult to diagnose in young children. All children develop at their own pace: while one child may reach milestones such as walking at a certain age, another child may not walk until a few months later. Both however, may be considered to be within normal range. It is also typical behavior for children to act without thinking of the consequences, be highly active and have short attention spans. Given this, doctors may have a hard time distinguishing between normal childhood behaviors and ADHD behaviors.
In addition, according to the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Volume IV), symptoms of ADHD must be present in at least two environments. If young children stay at home with their parents, the diagnosis is even more difficult as the doctor or medical professional would not have two separate environments, such as home and school, to use as a basis.
However, many parents of children with ADHD have indicated they knew their child was “different” way before school began. There are some indicators of ADHD in young children, such as lack of interest in cuddling, excessive energy, always in motion, and difficulty calming down after activity. For a more complete list of early indicators, see ADHD in Young Children.
If you feel your child exhibits symptoms of ADHD, keep a daily log of behaviors that you have noticed. Keep track of when your child has a hard time falling asleep, what their energy level is and the normal childhood milestones. Bring this log with you to the doctor. In addition, the following guidelines can help you decide if you should see a doctor:
- Do you see consistent behaviors that are not age appropriate?
- Has your child been suspended repeatedly or expelled from either a day care or preschool?
- Do your child’s teachers consistently bring up problems your child has had during the day?
- Have problem behaviors continued for more than six months?
No matter what behaviors you have seen, remember, you are the parent and if you feel there is a problem, you should consult a physician. You are the expert on your child.