Can You Really Diagnose ADHD in Toddlers?
Most ADHD experts caution that it is very difficult to diagnose an infant or preschooler with ADHD. That's because many exhibit some ADHD symptoms in various situations that are actually developmentally appropriate for their age.
This is not to suggest that infant and preschoolers are never diagnosed with the condition. Some physicians believe it's prudent to diagnose the disorder in preschoolers and infants when impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention are extreme. For instance, a preschooler who can't focus on anything at all for any length of time and requires constant monitoring may be suspected of having ADHD by some diagnosticians.
Remember that your child's suspect behaviors must occur in and adversely affect at least two areas of her life, such as home, school, day-care, or in her relationships with friends, and also must have been present consistently for at least six months.
If your child is overly aggressive, exhibits behavior that is more extreme or very different than her peers, and has problems making friends, you may want to take her to a pediatrician or child psychologist for evaluation, especially if you or your spouse suffers from ADHD.
ADHD experts must look at the root of a child's behavior before making a definitive diagnosis, as many other things are often mistaken for ADHD, such as separation anxiety, poor motor skills or sensory problems, developmental disorders, oppositional disorder, and bipolar disorder.
Behavior that Predicts ADHD Later in Life
Although most physicians will not diagnose an infant, toddler, or preschooler with ADHD, some believe there are certain behaviors in early childhood that can predict the onset of ADHD in later life. They include:
Expulsion from preschool because of aggressive behavior
Refusal to take part in school activities
Unwillingness to respect other children's property and boundaries
Being rejected, avoided, or shunned by peers
Again, these behaviors may not be enough to diagnose the condition in infants and toddlers, because they are naturally hyperactive.