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, LIVESTRONG.com 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:

Hyperfocus
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.

Hyperactivity
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.

Sources: LIVESTRONG.com, HealthCentral.com

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