The 3 Types Of ADHD And What They Mean For Your Child

Updated January 30, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

If you've been noticing different behaviors in your child or if someone has suggested ADHD to you it may have made you start doing some research. Maybe you're starting to wonder just what this is going to mean for your child or whether it's even accurate. It's important that you start by understanding what ADHD is and then we'll talk about the different subtypes and what it could mean if your child does get a diagnosis. Of course, you should note that this doesn't mean they won't be able to live a completely normal life.


What Is ADHD?

ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a medical condition that's characterized by differences in the brain and overall development that affect things like attention, self-control and the ability to sit still. Children who suffer from ADHD could suffer from milder or more extreme cases and could suffer from one of several different types or subcategories. Overall, ADHD refers to a large group of different symptoms as well, and your child could suffer from any combination of these.

Keep in mind that small children will often exhibit symptoms that are associated with ADHD just through the course of their normal lives. After all, children are excitable, easily distracted, hyper and impulsive. These things can be completely normal and may occur in a child that is not diagnosed with ADHD. The difference is that these types of behaviors are not out-grown as the child continues to age and they don't get better over time. They tend to progress and grow even worse instead, or the child may start to experience other side effects as a result of these types of behavior. That's when a diagnosis might be made.

Symptoms Of ADHD

There are three different categories of symptoms that are associated with ADHD, and your child may have symptoms from any or all of them. Keep in mind that these aren't exhaustive descriptions and also that your child is unlikely to have all of these symptoms. Rather, most children exhibit many of the symptoms repeatedly or to the detriment of their normal lives. The symptoms don't get better over time or as the child ages and can interfere with others around them as well as with their own learning.

Inattentive symptoms can include things like difficulty focusing or staying on task, difficulty listening to instructions or problems finishing the things that they start. These children may be considered dreamers, and they tend to be quite forgetful about things that they're supposed to be doing. Instead of accomplishing tasks they may get distracted by something else that's completely unrelated, or they may distract others as a result of their behaviors. They tend to have trouble trying to concentrate on tasks that take a long time or require a great deal of thought, and they may not catch all the details when something is explained.


Impulsive symptoms include interrupting others, difficulty waiting in lines or waiting their turn or pushing others. They may grab things out of someone else's hand, take things that they want that doesn't belong to them or even engage in risky behaviors without seeming to recognize the consequences. These children might not ask for permission for things that they are supposed to and tend to react to situations quickly. They often don't think about what will happen as a result of their actions and instead seem to react simply to what they want or what they need at the moment.

Hyperactive symptoms refer to restless children. These are children that get bored very easily and who may not be able to be quiet or sit still, even when they're supposed to. They tend to be very rushed in everything they do and may get wild or rambunctious when it's not acceptable. They may be disruptive to others because of their wild behavior, even when they do not intend to. They struggle to stay in one place for any length of time and when they do they appear restless, or they may fidget constantly. These children want to be constantly on the move.

Does My Child Have ADHD?

There's a chance that if you recognize some of these symptoms in your child that they do have ADHD. The best thing that you can do is keep track of the type of behaviors that you're recognizing and speak with your child's doctor. You can also talk to your child's teacher, daycare provider or other adults in their life to find out more about behaviors that occur when you're not around. When you get multiple, objective opinions, you may be able to reach a diagnosis, along with the child's doctor and a psychiatrist.

What Does It Mean To Have ADHD?

Several things can go along with ADHD, but it's mainly going to mean that your child needs a little bit of special help to calm down, focus and do the things that they need to do. They may receive medication to help calm their brain slightly. This helps them to slow down and allows their brain to exert the self-control that it needs. Behavioral therapy can also help children who have ADHD as can help from their teacher and support from their parents and other important adults in their life.

Types Of ADHD

In general, three different types of ADHD are commonly referred to. These are inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type, and combination type. Each one has slightly different symptoms, but they are different combinations of the symptoms that we've already talked about above. Also, the symptoms may appear to change over time as your child gets older or as things in their life change. If the symptoms go away this could be a sign that ADHD was not an accurate diagnosis (if no treatment has been given) or that treatment is working (if your child is working through treatment).

Inattentive ADHD is characterized by children who have difficulty focusing and tend to get distracted. They tend to jump from one task to another haphazardly. They lose things frequently, and they just don't listen. They may have difficulty processing information, and they may not be able to follow directions. On top of this, they may not be able to organize their thoughts, they may miss out on details, and they may seem like they're moving around in a daze or their little world.


Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD is characterized by children who are fidgety or who seem to struggle to sit still in one place. They may talk nearly all the time, and they tend to move their hands or play with things all the time. They like to move, and they don't like to have to wait. They are also likely to ignore consequences or simply not think about them. They may blurt out things as they occur to them or may struggle with quiet time or quiet activities. They're disruptive in a classroom, and this can make it difficult for them to succeed in a classroom.

Combination ADHD is characterized by children who fall into both of these other categories. There may be some symptoms from each side, and the symptoms continue for an extended period. Children may have trouble sitting still and also trouble to focus. They may have difficulty following directions and also trouble with quiet activities. There are several different combinations that you could experience when it comes to combination ADHD, but it means that the child is struggling in multiple different ways rather than fitting into only one of the categories. They could have more symptoms from one side or the other or seem to be more evenly split between them.

Getting Professional Help

If you believe that your child has ADHD, the best thing you can do is get them professional help right away. The right therapist and the right combination of therapy and medications could help them live a healthy and normal life more quickly. You want to make sure that your child is going to be successful in school and life. By getting your child the professional help that they need they'll be able to talk to someone about what they're going through, even if they don't fully understand it.

BetterHelp is one way that your child can get the help that they need, and they can do it without having to go to a psychiatrist's office. Instead, they can stay in their own home, where they're already comfortable, and they can talk to a mental health professional that way. This is going to help them feel comfortable, and it's going to make sure that they're still getting the level of help that they need. They could start experiencing better results in their classroom quickly once they get the right combination of help.

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