Does my child or I have ADHD?

Diagnosing ADHD in children

There is no single test to diagnose ADHD. Common problems like sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities can look very similar to ADHD.1

Your health care professional will ask parents, teachers, and others who care for your child in different settings to help in diagnosing ADHD.1,2

Signs of ADHD in children1,3

Children with ADHD show signs of inattention
and hyperactivity / impulsivity in certain ways.

Table 1 lists some signs of ADHD.

Table 1. How a child with signs of ADHD may behave1,2


  • Often has a hard time paying attention, daydreams
  • Often does not seem to listen
  • Is easily distracted from work or play
  • Often does not seem to care about details, makes careless mistakes
  • Frequently does not follow through on instructions or finish tasks
  • Is disorganized
  • Frequently loses a lot of important things
  • Often forgets things
  • Frequently avoids doing things that require ongoing mental effort


  • Is in constant motion, as if "driven by a motor"
  • Cannot stay seated
  • Frequently squirms and fidgets
  • Talks too much
  • Often runs, jumps, and climbs when this is not permitted
  • Cannot play quietly
  • Frequently acts and speaks without thinking
  • May run into the street without looking for traffic first
  • Frequently has trouble taking turns
  • Cannot wait for things
  • Often calls out answers before the question is complete
  • Frequently interrupts others

A health care provider will look for the signs in Table 1 and follow the criteria below to confirm that your child has ADHD. Evaluation of the signs and symptoms listed below is one part of the overall process used to diagnose ADHD.1,2

Symptoms occur in 2 or more settings, such as at home, in school, and in social situations, and interfere with normal activities.
In a child aged 4 to 16 years, 6 or more symptoms must be identified.
In a child 17 years of age, and in adults, 5 or more symptoms must be identified.
The symptoms significantly impair your child's ability to function in some of the activities of daily life, such as schoolwork, relationships with you and siblings, relationships with friends, or the ability to function in groups such as sports teams.
Symptoms start before the child reaches age 12 years. However, these may not be recognized as ADHD symptoms until a child is older.
Symptoms have continued for more than 6 months. Symptoms need to be inappropriate for the child's developmental level.1

I am a United States Healthcare Professional