ADHD and Your Toddler: 4 Early Warning Signs

Although ADHD is typically not diagnosed before children enter school, there are symptoms parents of toddlers should keep an eye out for.

By Reader’s Digest Editors

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a syndrome characterized by symptoms of distractibility, inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Parents of toddlers are likely to notice behavior that sometimes fits those symptoms, but how do you know whether ADHD is a realistic concern?

In a post on ADHD and toddlers, explains that many toddlers are naturally hyper, moody, and distractible. And because the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines say children under age 6 cannot be diagnosed with ADHD, it’s difficult to say if problematic behavior is related to ADHD, or an emotional or other disorder. Another thing to keep in mind is that no imaging or lab tests are used to diagnose ADHD. Doctors make diagnoses based on behavioral symptoms and by ruling out other disorders. LIVESTRONG notes that early signs do exist, however, and says that if these signs persist, they should raise a red flag.

Be watchful for these early symptoms:

If your child seems inattentive it can really mean he is just focused on something that interests him more than what you’re trying to call attention to.  LIVESTRONG notes that toddlers with ADHD are frequently labeled inattentive when they’re actually hyperfocused. Children may rush from one activity to another, seeking something to absorb themselves in.

All kids display sleep problems, but a child with ADHD will sleep much less than the amount recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (12 to 14 hours). LIVESTRONG says while parents end up exhausted, kids with ADHD will appear unaffected by sleep deficiency. Additionally, kids with ADHD will resist sitting still for most things, even meals.

Food Sensitivities
Many toddlers with ADHD suffer from food sensitivities. Parents are advised to eliminate sugar, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, and preservatives from their child’s diets. Some parents take things even further by removing wheat, eggs, dairy, soy, chocolate, and corn.

Personal Space Issues and Impulsivity
One early symptom of ADHD is difficulty accepting personal space. Related to this are communication problems, like loud and incessant talking, or the inability to let another person speak. Young children with ADHD will also act before considering consequences, which is why these specific symptoms often develop into issues with impulsivity.


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  • Your Comments

    • jasmin

      I have a 11 year old that was diagnosed with adhd and autism back in 2010 he was 6. I am a mother of 4 and with bailey i was so frustrated i could cope with the other child i had at the time. Now having for i see all signs of the 3rd child having it Hes rude and mouthie all the things as an adult you’d get punched in the face for. i am trying so hard, but nothing i do feels like its working. He sleeps but not much hes up when the suns starts to come out. he wakes most nights and crawls into my bed. i tried for months to get him to sleep in his own bed but i wasnt functioning with the others .

    • Concerned citizen

      I have 4 children ranging in ages from 16(my oldest) to 5(my youngest. And I can tell you from the time my youngest was 1 year old I knew she had ADHD. I think any parent who knows their children and all their ticks would be able to recognize it at an early age. Especially if the child is not your firstborn. My daughter was given her diagnoses at the age of 4 and has been seeing the same psychiatrist since the beginning. Not once has medication come up in conversation. So to say doctors only diagnose children with ADHD to make the pharmaceutical companies money is nothing more than an ill-informed opinion. and as far as other counties not having the magnitude of children afflicted as the US, this can easily be attributed to the mass quantities of chemically altered foods we in the US consume compared to other countries. I know it must seem extreme to put all the blame on what some call a “buzz topic” but when you see the statistics of US food allergies in children and then look at the statistics of children diagnosed with ADHD, there a definite parallels. And when you add in the hereditary factor it exponentially compounds the issue. To all the people who are saying our children are just being typical for their age and we as parents are not doing our job: Shame on you. The best thing I ever did for my daughter was recognize there was nothing typical about her behavior. If you feel your child may have ADD/ADHD then speak with the doctor and tell them your concerns. Be your child’s best advocate and don’t let anyone tell you that you are doing anything wrong by wanting answers. If you find out your child has ADD/ADHD and you don’t want your child medicated then don’t do it. You have that choice. There are so many treatment options that do not necessarily include daily medicine. Sorry for the rant but I get annoyed when I hear people say this is a big corporate issue just to make money and not a real disorder. :(