ADHD in Early Elementary Age Children

By Eileen Bailey

When children enter school, they are expected to sit still for longer periods of time, complete tasks (even when they aren’t interested in them), pay attention to the teacher, follow directions and manage to bring papers home each night and homework back to school again the next day.


For children with ADHD, these are the areas that offer the most challenges and symptoms and characteristics of ADHD may become more apparent:

  • A child with ADHD may have difficulty finishing tasks, even though he or she begins the task with much excitement.
  • A child with ADHD may become distracted easily and not complete work.
  • A child with ADHD may hurry through each task, but end up with messy or incomplete work.
  • A child with ADHD may lose items, such as homework papers, books and even his or her school bag.
  • A child with ADHD may get up and walk around the classroom at times they are expected to sit down.

One other aspect of ADHD is inconsistency. A child may do extremely well one day or amaze teachers and parents when completing a task in a timely manner or having work done perfectly. The next day, the same child may be completely distracted and not manage to complete any of their work. This aspect of ADHD is often both confusing and frustrating for parents and teachers.


In addition to problems with attention, young children with ADHD, especially those with hyperactivity or impulsiveness, may have problems with social skills, sitting still, and transitioning from one activity to the next. Transitioning is often a challenge to people with ADHD and young children cannot easily move from one activity to another, causing problems in the classroom. When children are not diagnosed with ADHD, teachers may see this type of behavior as intentional and defiant.


Homework also creates challenges during the early elementary grades. Most teachers will give homework, expecting it to take the children between five and fifteen minutes per night. For children with ADHD, however, this homework may take an hour or more. In addition, if a child didn’t finish work at school, some teachers may send the papers home for the work to be completed and returned the next day. Parents are often frustrated, spending time each night trying to help their child focus on work to be completed. Each distraction requires the parent to begin again. Even after the time and effort put into homework, many children with ADHD will lose papers or forget to hand in work.

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