It is normal for ADHD in toddlers to be energetic, and they typically have difficulty paying attention as well. In some cases, they are fussy sleepers too, leading to a hard time falling asleep. But when do these factors transcend simple toddler behavior and become manifestations of an underlying condition?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in toddlers is a very real mental health condition, and its symptoms can be observed as early as 2 to 3 years old. The three main signs are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
These three signs may be observed even in children without ADHD. Indeed, it’s normal for children to throw tantrums and be high-spirited. Your child would only be diagnosed when the symptoms are displayed for at least 6 months in more than one setting (such as at home and at daycare) and start to affect their ability to perform age-appropriate activities.
In general, doctors won’t use medication to treat children with ADHD unless they become a danger to themselves or others. In most instances, behavioral therapy is instead recommended to treat the condition.
Symptoms of ADHD in Toddlers
ADHD in toddlers can be broken down into 3 categories:
- Inattentive but now hyperactive nor impulsive
- Hyperactive, impulsive, and able to pay attention
- Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive
Depending on which category the toddler falls under, ADHD can display varying symptoms.
For children with predominantly inattentive signs of ADHD, doing a task repetitively can be a struggle. It’s not that they can’t pay attention; they are able to focus on things that interest them. But staying on track in tasks that they deem boring can be a problem.
- Easily distracted
- Forgets or ignores instructions
- Makes careless mistakes
- Has trouble focusing in a conversation
- Misplaces toys and homework frequently
- Doesn’t pay attention to details
- Has trouble starting or completing tasks
To manage inattentiveness, children with ADHD often need a calm quiet place wherein they can focus. Removing distractions from their surroundings can also aid them in retaining their concentration on a particular task.
This is the most quintessential sign of ADHD, and the most often touted.
- Constant fidgeting and squirming (might be through constant tapping of their feet, bouncing of legs, drumming of their fingers, and other such behavior)
- Inability or difficulty in staying still even when instructed to
- Excessive talking
- Easily agitated
- Constantly moving, bouncing, or climbing
Children with ADHD struggle with self-control. Since they have little to no concept of social propriety, they may continually talk over other people, blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, make tactless comments, or even ask personal questions.
- Acts rashly with no thought of consequences
- Interrupting conversations or games
- Invading other people’s space
- Often having temper tantrums as they fail to control their emotions
Helping a Child with ADHD
Regardless of the symptoms displayed, ADHD in toddlers shouldn’t be left untreated. Otherwise, it could be manifest in even more serious problems as they grow into adulthood. They may find it extremely hard to make friends or navigate social spaces, and these frustrations may lead to lowered self-esteem and self-image.
Though there is no cure for ADHD, there are treatment options available for those diagnosed that can significantly improve their quality of life. Provided the right support system and a steady, loving environment, children with ADHD can flourish and grow into healthy, self-reliant adults.
It is important to work with medical professionals in developing a treatment plan customized to the unique needs of the child. This may include behavioral therapy, parent education and training, social support, and assistance at school.
Parents are also encouraged to adapt their home environment to the child’s needs, lessening the distractions and providing stability. ADHD in toddlers may seem like they have too much energy for you to effectively cope with, but know that it isn’t a result of bad parenting. However, there are parenting strategies that can aid you in managing their behavior.
Take care of yourself
To be able to effectively take care of a child with ADHD, first you have to take care of yourself too. Eat well, get proper sleep, and seek help if need be. Your child needs you to be on top of your game, and that means ensuring that you are strong enough to support the both of you. You can also ask for assistance from your family and friends, as well as enlist the help from your child’s doctors and teachers.
Establish a structure.
ADHD in toddlers need a clear and consistent structure to thrive. Establish a routine and stick to it. This will help your child become used to organization and stick to a schedule. Keep your child busy with activities that stimulate the mind and keep them focused. Clear the boundaries with your child as well; let them know what happens when rules are broken and what rewards can be achieved when they abide.
Encourage healthy living.
Feed your child a healthy, well-balanced diet and encourage exercise. Studies show that physical activity helps improve brain function and promotes brain development. Also emphasize the importance of getting enough sleep.
Create a plan that can help them succeed in the classroom.
The classroom setting is often a nightmare for ADHD in toddlers. After all, they are often unable to sit still, pay attention, and listen well, all of which are necessary in a traditional classroom. As such, it is important to have an in-depth discussion with their teacher on how to best assist them and help them reach their potential. Evaluate the child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to craft strategies that can help them stay focused, complete their tasks, and learn well in the classroom.