Are toddlers with ADHD fact or fiction?
There are some heated discussions among health professionals regarding whether it is appropriate to diagnose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in toddlers and very young children.
As a doctor who specializes in treating ADHD, and as the mother of a son with ADHD, I'm deeply involved in these discussions.
The argument against diagnosing ADHD in toddlers is that most young children tend to display hyperactivity, do not listen, and behave impulsively - all common symptoms of ADHD.
While most young children tend to "bounce off of the walls," one essential thing to keep in mind is that for a clinical diagnosis of ADHD to be made, the majority of the symptoms must be present for at least six months and they must be interfering with a child’s daily functioning.
For example, a child who cannot complete schoolwork due to an inability ot focus, is constantly disrupting class, or is at risk of severe academic consequences, etc. In that sense, I believe toddlers with ADHD are as real as any other condition such as cancer or diabetes. As a result, proper diagnosis and treatment are essential.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is diagnosed with the criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used my mental health professionals to diagnose mental illnesses. Toddlers with ADHD are diagnosed with this symptoms list.
Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months to a point that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:
1) Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
2) Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
3) Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
4) Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
5) Often has trouble organizing activities.
6) Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
7) Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
8) Is often easily distracted.
9) Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:
1) Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
2) Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
3) Often runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).
4) Often has trouble playing or enjoying leisure activities quietly.
5) Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor".
6) Often talks excessively.
1) Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
2) Often has trouble waiting one's turn.
3) Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).
*Some symptoms that cause impairment were present before age 7 years.
*Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g. at school/work and at home).
*There must be clear evidence of significant impairment in social, school, or work functioning.
*The symptoms do not happen only during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder. The symptoms are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).
It is also important to treat ADHD symptoms at home, and the ADHD Breakthrough Program is a highly effective, at-home program that teaches parents how to manage ADHD behaviors.
Created by child psychologist Robert Meyers, the Total Focus Program teaches parents everything about ADHD, how to understand and communicate with their ADHD children, and learn how to manage challenging ADHD behaviors and meltdowns. For parents of toddlers with ADHD, it is a godsend.