I think my preschooler might have ADHD, but I’m holding off on getting an evaluation. I was told ADHD can’t be diagnosed until third grade. Is that right? If not, how early can ADHD be diagnosed?
It’s not true that ADHD can’t be diagnosed until third grade. Preschoolers can get an ADHD diagnosis.
It’s a matter of degree. I’m not sure what symptoms you’re seeing in your child, or how severe they are. But I’ve evaluated kids for ADHD as early as age 3. Usually, when I see preschoolers, it’s because they’re having frequent and very serious behavior problems.
They might have major tantrums or physical aggression toward others. And they often do impulsive things that run the risk of serious injury. They might run out into traffic, climb in places where they’re likely to get hurt, or turn on and play with a stove.
Not all kids with ADHD are prone to such risky behaviors. But it can be really hard to manage when they are. That’s why it’s important to get them the right treatment early.
If you think your child has ADHD, the only way to know for sure is to have an ADHD evaluation. It’s also important to assess kids for other possible developmental issues.
In this video, I explain how ADHD is diagnosed in kids:
If it turns out your child has ADHD, there are lots of ways to help, even in preschool. Generally speaking, 4- and 5-year-olds should first be treated with behavior therapy. It’s important for parents and caregivers to work with kids on their behavior, too.
There’s good reason to act if you think your young child has ADHD. Studies have shown that the ADHD problems kids have in preschool continue for at least three years. Often, it’s longer. That can take a toll on the health and safety of these kids. It can also affect them in school and socially, and hurt their self-esteem.
If you’re unsure, reach out to your child’s preschool teacher and others who know your child well. See what they think, and if they’ve noticed what you see. You can also talk to your child’s health care provider about what you’re seeing and your child’s development.
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About the author
About the author
Thomas E. Brown, PhD is a clinical psychologist and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.