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Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder

Is it ADHD? A Symptom Checklist.

Deciding if a child has ADHD is a several step process. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other problems, like anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning difficulties.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5) is used by mental health professionals to help diagnose ADHD. It was released in May 2013 and replaces the previous version, the text revision of the fourth edition (DSM-IV-TR). This diagnostic standard helps ensure that people are appropriately diagnosed and treated for ADHD. Using the same standard across communities will help determine how many children have ADHD, and how public health is impacted by this condition.

There were some changes in the DSM-5 for the diagnosis of ADHD: symptoms can now occur by age 12 rather than by age 6; several symptoms now need to be present in more than one setting rather than just some impairment in more than one setting; new descriptions were added to show what symptoms might look like at older ages; and for adults and adolescents age 17 or older, only 5 symptoms are needed instead of the 6 needed for younger children.

The criteria are presented in shortened form. Please note that they are provided just for your information. Only trained health care providers can diagnose or treat ADHD.

If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, it is important to discuss these concerns with the child’s health care provider.

Simply check off the signs or symptoms the child has shown and take the completed checklist to your child’s health care provider.


Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months to a point that is inappropriate for developmental level:

– Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.

– Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.

– Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.

– Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (loses focus, gets sidetracked).

– Often has trouble organizing activities. o Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).

– Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).

– Is often easily distracted. o Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Hyperactivity / Impulsivity

Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:

– Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat when sitting still is expected. o Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.

– Often excessively runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).

– Often has trouble playing or doing leisure activities quietly. o Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”.

– Often talks excessively. o Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished. o Often has trouble waiting one’s turn.

– Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).

What do you see?

Ask a relative, friend, coach, teacher, or child care provider to tell you what your child does. Print a blank checklist and forward them.

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Does my child have a TS?

Tourette Syndrome, or TS, is a disorder of the nervous system that causes children to have “tics.” Tics are sudden twitches, movements, or sounds that people do repeatedly. A child who has tics cannot stop their body from doing these things. Children with TS have two forms of tics: motor tics, involving movements of the body, like blinking, and vocal tics, involving sounds made with the voice, like grunting.

Tics can be either simple or complex. Simple tics involve just a few parts of the body. Examples of simple tics include squinting the eyes or sniffing. Complex tics usually involve several different parts of the body and can have a pattern. An example of a complex tic is bobbing the head while jerking an arm, and then jumping up.

My child has tics. What now?

Tics are common, but for children to be diagnosed with TS, tics have to occur many times a day, nearly every day, for at least a year. Symptoms usually begin when a child is 5 to 10 years old and can impact how children do in school, their relationships, and their health. The media often portray people with TS as shouting out swear words or repeating the words of other people. These symptoms are rare and they are not required for a diagnosis of TS.

The frequent symptoms often are motor tics that occur in the head and neck area. Tics usually are worse during times that are stressful or exciting. They tend to improve when a person is calm or focused on an activity.

The types of tics and how often a person has tics changes a lot over time. Even though the symptoms might appear, disappear, and reappear, these conditions are considered chronic.

In most cases, tics decrease during adolescence and early adulthood and sometimes disappear entirely. However, many people with TS experience tics into adulthood and, in some cases, tics can become worse during adulthood.

What conditions also occur in children with TS?

More than 4 of 5 children with TS have at least one additional mental, behavioral, or developmental condition. The two most common conditions are Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; occurs in 50% to 70% of children with TS), and Obsessive-compulsive disorder (occurs in 30% to 50% of children with TS). People with TS are also more likely to have depression, anxiety, and/or learning disabilities.

How is TS diagnosed and treated?

There is no single test, like a blood test, to diagnose TS. Health professionals look at the person’s symptoms to diagnose TS and other tic disorders. The tic disorders differ from each other in terms of the type of tic present (motor or vocal, or a combination of the both), and how long the symptoms have lasted. TS can be diagnosed if a person has both motor and vocal tics, and has had tic symptoms for at least a year.

Although there is no cure for TS, there are treatments to help manage the tics caused by TS. Many people with TS have tics that do not get in the way of living their daily lives and therefore, do not need any treatment. Medication and behavioral treatments are available if tics cause pain or injury; interfere with school, work, or one’s social life; or cause stress. Management of TS should include timely and accurate diagnosis, education, and behavioral or medication treatment if needed.

Learn more about TS treatments