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ADHD symptoms at different ages

By Understood Team

It’s not always easy to spot ADHD symptoms. That’s partly because everyone acts in ways that can look like ADHD from time to time. But kids and adults with ADHD (also known as ADD) struggle a lot more with these behaviors than other people their age.

Kids and adults with ADHD often:

  • Have trouble focusing

  • Are impulsive

  • Have trouble managing emotions

  • Have difficulty remembering information

  • Don’t start tasks (or don’t finish them)

Some people with ADHD are also hyperactive, or need to constantly be in motion.

Here’s how those ADHD signs can play out at different ages. Explore this list, keeping an eye out for patterns. If you have concerns, share your notes with your doctor. Together you can decide on next steps.

ADHD symptoms in preschool–grade 2

  • Trouble following directions like “put away your toys” or “bring me your brush”

  • Getting up, fidgeting, or talking during quiet activities like story time or while watching a movie

  • Not slowing down enough to do things carefully, whether it’s practicing writing letters or pouring cereal into a bowl

  • Grabbing things without permission, like a photo on the teacher’s desk or candy in a store

  • Trouble remembering things the teacher just taught, like that 2 plus 2 equals 4

  • Getting very upset or angry over minor things, like spilling something or not catching the ball

ADHD symptoms in grades 3–7

  • Putting off starting on tasks, whether it’s writing an essay or putting clothes away

  • Clowning around in class and trying to get everyone’s attention

  • Getting restless during field trips or school assemblies if they’re not very interesting

  • Rushing through assignments and turning in messy work with careless mistakes

  • Saying or doing things without thinking about the consequences

  • Working slowly and not finishing quizzes or assignments in a reasonable amount of time

  • Trouble following directions with more than one step

ADHD symptoms in teens and adults

  • Trouble setting priorities and making sure the important stuff gets done

  • “Spacing out” when listening to the teacher’s lesson or doing assigned reading

  • Needing to re-read information or ask people to repeat what they’ve said

  • Getting sidetracked from tasks that aren’t really interesting

  • Engaging in risky behavior without thinking about consequences

  • Forgetting to write down assignments or keep track of deadlines

  • Having a hard time making friends

Next steps

There are many myths about ADHD that can make wondering about ADHD feel scary. Keep in mind that ADHD is very common, and a lot is known about how to help individuals with ADHD thrive. Here are suggestions on what to do next.

Parents and caregivers

Ask questions in Understood’s discussion group about attention and hyperactivity.

Young adults

Get advice from young adults who learn and think differently.

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Share ADHD symptoms at different ages

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom