How To Recognize ADHD Symptoms In Toddlers

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated October 2, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is something that can be tough to navigate. If you're a parent who has a child with ADHD, it isn't always going to be easy to keep things under control. Children with ADHD may require a bit more attention and guidance than some children. This doesn't mean that children with ADHD can't work through their struggles and find great success in life. It just means that you may need to be a bit more creative as a parent.

If your child is currently a toddler and is displaying certain ADHD behaviors, it's possible that you might be a bit worried. Many people wind up asking themselves "What are the signs of ADHD in children?" Thankfully, it isn't that difficult to recognize ADHD symptoms in toddlers. Once you know what to look for, you should have a good idea of whether your toddler might be living with an ADHD issue and might benefit from various types of professional support.

ADHD Symptoms In Toddlers

Wondering If Your Child May Have ADHD?

There are many different ADHD symptoms in toddlers that you might observe. Traditional ADHD symptoms will involve your toddler being easily distracted and having problems with focusing. Some toddlers may appear to be inattentive even when you're speaking directly to them. Additionally, you may notice that they have a difficult time following directions.

If you spot ADHD symptoms in your toddler, there is a chance ADHD might be to blame. Even so, you may want to take this information to your doctor, since these symptoms can be linked to other issues. You can't make an ADHD diagnosis yourself. You need a doctor to help you figure out the best way to proceed. 

ADHD Test For Toddlers

Consider taking an ADHD test for toddlers. This involves you observing the behavior of your toddler to determine whether they're exhibiting ADHD symptoms. All you need to do is find a checklist and answer the questions as honestly as you can. If you aren't sure about a certain answer, take more time to observe your toddler until the answer becomes clear.

Look at the questions below. This is a good example of what an ADHD test for toddlers might entail. Some tests will be more thorough than others. If you're answering many questions with yes, then it's possible that your child might have an issue with ADHD. 

  • Does your child have difficulties trying to focus?

  • Does your child make many mistakes?

  • Does your child appear to not be paying attention even when spoken to directly?

  • Does your child move on to another activity before completing what they were doing?

  • Does your child lose things often?

  • Does your child seem unable to learn how to stay organized?

  • Does your child avoid activities that require concentration?

  • Is your child easily distracted?

  • Does your child forget to do things even when you remind them?

  • Is your child constantly fidgeting?

  • Does your child have problems staying in their seat?

  • Does your child talk excessively?

Most of these questions can be applied to children of all ages. ADHD symptoms in children are going to be very similar regardless of how old they are.

Younger toddlers, specifically those who are between the ages of two and three, will be trickier to diagnose. When kids are too young, it can be tough to tell what is really occurring—it could be a developmental issue rather than ADHD. This is going to make it even more crucial to get the opinion of a pediatrician or a child psychiatrist.

A Professional Opinion

You need a professional opinion to get a proper diagnosis. Even if you took a simple ADHD test for toddlers that yielded many yeses, that does not equal a real diagnosis from a professional. It's a good idea to get a pediatrician or a child psychiatrist to evaluate your toddler. They should be able to make observations to determine if your child has ADHD or such tendencies.

A medical professional will want to make sure that ADHD issues are present before prescribing any medication. Medications can often make a big difference but giving a young child any type of medication is a serious step. Make sure that you go through the process of speaking to a professional before you attempt any type of treatment. 

Treatments Can Work Wonders

If your young toddler does have ADHD, then you should try not to fret—this is very common. Some children start showing signs of ADHD earlier than others. ADHD is a very common disorder that impacts the lives of millions of children in the United States alone. Medication can help children manage their symptoms very well.

Your doctor will work with you to find the right medication to help your child. Typically, children will take some type of stimulant-based medication to improve their symptoms. Some children respond better to non-stimulant medication. This depends on things such as personal biology, and it can take a while to figure out the perfect medication.

Once the right medication has been found, it really can work wonders. It won't make your toddlers ADHD disappear, but it can make things easier. You'll likely notice improved focus and different behavior from your toddler once the medication has taken effect.

Medication isn't the only treatment your doctor may suggest. They may also recommend that you try a special diet to counteract ADHD symptoms. Generally, this will be a diet high in protein and low in sugar and other junk foods.

Therapy May Help As Well

Depending on the age of your child, you may also want to consider therapy as an option. Diet or medications can do a great job in alleviating or lessening many ADHD symptoms. These treatments are not going to be able to completely eliminate ADHD, though. This is why many parents are urged to take their child to a child psychiatrist or therapist so that they can receive therapy.

It's important to note that therapy is preferable to medication for toddlers who are too young. Most doctors refer parents to therapy when their children exhibit ADHD symptoms at the age of five and below. Kids aged six and up might wind up seeing many benefits from medication, but they'll also be helped by therapy. It's definitely something worth considering if your child is exhibiting signs of ADHD.

After a professional has diagnosed your child with ADHD, you can ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist. They may be able to point you in the direction of someone in your area who specializes in children and ADHD. Your child can learn to manage their behavior better and should be able to increase their ability to focus over time.

Online Therapy Is Also Available

Wondering If Your Child May Have ADHD?

You may also want to consider the availability of online therapy. Not everyone lives close to a good child therapist. This makes being able to reach out to a therapist online that much more important. Online therapy allows you to reach out to a professional in the most convenient way possible.

These online therapists are fully licensed and are ready to help your child with what they are experiencing. They have the experience and the patience to help your toddler with their problems. In addition, they can help you work on any problems that you're experiencing surrounding your child's diagnosis or any other mental health concern. 

You'll also find that online therapy is very affordable. Online therapy is typically going to be more cost-effective than traditional therapy methods. You may be able to make use of this therapy during times when traditional therapy offices would be closed. This makes it a perfect fit for busy professionals who want to therapy for themselves or their kids.

Your child may benefit from getting the help of a true professional. If you ever need any help with personal problems, a therapist can be there for you too. Online therapy has been shown to be effective for helping people cope with many issues, including those related to learning about a medical diagnosis regarding your child. It can also be an important source of aid for those experiencing depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and many additional mental health concerns.

If you want to try online counseling, sign up for BetterHelp, and you can be matched with a therapist within no more than about 48 hours, in most cases. You don't have to leave your home to speak to a licensed therapist. Professionals are readily available and standing by to assist you.

With the right support, you and your child can healthfully adjust to ADHD.

Gain a better understanding of ADHD

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