ADHD Symptoms at Different Ages

By The Understood Team
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It’s not always easy to spot ADHD symptoms. That’s partly because all kids act in ways that can look like ADHD from time to time. But kids with ADHD (also known as ADD) struggle a lot more with these behaviors than other kids their age. ADHD symptoms can look different at different ages. And symptoms vary from child to child. But there are some that most kids with ADHD have in common.

Kids with ADHD often:

  • Are impulsive

  • Have trouble focusing

  • Have trouble managing emotions

  • Have difficulty remembering information

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

Some kids 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 child’s doctor. Together you can decide on next steps.

ADHD Symptoms in Preschool–Grade 2

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

  • Gets up, fidgets, or talks during quiet activities like story time or while watching a movie

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

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

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

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

ADHD Symptoms in Grades 3–7

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

  • Clowns around in class and tries to get everyone’s attention

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

  • Rushes through assignments and turns in messy work with careless mistakes

  • Says or does things without thinking about the consequences

  • Works slowly and doesn’t finish quizzes or assignments in a reasonable amount of time

  • Has trouble following directions with more than one step

ADHD Symptoms in Teens

  • Has trouble setting priorities and making sure the important stuff gets done

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

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

  • Gets sidetracked from tasks that aren’t really interesting

  • Engages in risky behavior without thinking about consequences

  • Forgets to write down assignments or keep track of deadlines

  • Has a hard time making friends

There are many myths about ADHD that can make wondering about ADHD feel scary. Keep in mind that ADHD is very common in kids, and a lot is known about how to help kids with ADHD thrive.

Get tips on what to do if you think your child could have ADHD. And if you still have questions, carve out some time to watch a 28-minute primer on ADHD.

About the Author

About the Author

The Understood Team 

is made up of passionate writers, editors, and community moderators. Many of them learn and think differently, or have kids who do.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, PhD 

is an ADHD/ASD expert and a best-selling author.

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