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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

ADHD Preschool Symptoms: Clues Most Parents Miss

May 29, 2012 05:05PM ● By Shelley Tzorfas

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is defined by the National Institutes of Health as “a problem with inattentiveness, overactivity, impulsivity, or a combination” of these behaviors. It is also the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder in childhood. Although ADHD can show up in children as early as the preschool years, the symptoms are often overlooked.

Years ago, a preschool teacher might have called parents to explain that their child had displayed “odd” behaviors or just “did not seem to fit in.” Today, that kind of call is extremely rare. Teachers are hesitant to inform parents of these kinds of behaviors for a couple of reasons: Parents seem quick to blame the school and simply take their child to a different school, or some classes have so many children with these issues that it is fast becoming the “norm.”

There is not one particular behavior that indicates early childhood ADHD but rather a group of behaviors. The key is early intervention: identifying these behaviors as ADHD before your child begins to struggle in elementary school. Symptoms to watch for are excessive whining and screaming, ignoring simple directions, bossiness, difficulty sleeping, speech delay, and recurrent infections.  

Clues to ADHD in Your Preschool Child

  •  Your child “simply” ignores you. You call your child by name but are ignored. You ask your child to follow two or three simple instructions, and he refuses to do what was asked. You ask your son to turn off the TV, and he ignores you. So you ask again, are seemingly “ignored” again, and resort to turning it off yourself. By this time, both you and your son have become tense. But is he really ignoring you? 

    Your child simply may not be processing what you are saying. He may have an auditory processing disorder or an auditory glitch. You can check to see if this might be one part of the equation. Gently ask your child, “What did you hear me say?” If he attempts to repeat the instruction and cannot, you may just have an answer. Then imagine how much more difficult it would be for your child to repeat an instruction in a classroom setting, with at least 15 kids in the room, when he can’t repeat something in a one-on-one situation. In the above example, one solution is to make sure that you have eye contact when requesting that the TV be turned off.

    How your child responds to commands that involve directions is another clue. Words such as “next to,” “under,” “inside,” and so on are usually difficult concepts for children to understand who are at risk for ADHD.
  • Bossy behavior A child’s insistence on being the boss may mean that he or she is not learning social cues. Demands have the opposite effect of what your son or daughter is seeking, and other children can begin to become repelled by bossy behavior. Try using puppets to teach your child what works best when he or she is dealing with other children.
  • Problems sleeping Your child’s inability to fall asleep—or stay asleep—can affect both parents and children. Some parents have begun giving their children melatonin in pill form. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain by the pineal gland and helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. It’s easily found in the supplements sections of pharmacies and grocery stores.
  • Speech delays The later that speech develops in a child, the more likely he is to encounter problems. Therefore, the earlier speech therapy begins, the better the outcome. Some doctors recommend a “wait and see approach,” but early intervention certainly can’t hurt and can lessen long-term consequences.
  • Recurring infections If you child suffers from recurring infections, particularly ear infections, chances are that he or she is being given antibiotics to treat them. The problem with antibiotics is that while they kill the bacteria causing the infection, they also alter the “gut flora,” or healthy bacteria in the gut. And the overuse of antibiotics results in reduced efficacy at best and a resistance at worst. Parents should look for other ways to prevent or reduce ear infections. Health food stores sell garlic oil made for children’s ears. And anytime antibiotics are used, acidophilus should be supplemented to restore the healthy bacteria in the gut that antibiotics kill.

There are simple things all parents can do to make learning easier for their kids with ADHD: Play games with your preschooler emphasizing the command words. Bake with your child so that he or she learns the importance of sequencing (what ingredient comes first, second and so on). Teach him or her to organize by sorting items into colors, shapes and sizes. By observing your child and making just a few adjustments when he or she is in preschool, your unfocused or somewhat hyperactive child might just jump right into learning their ABCs with ease.

Shelley Tzorfas, a tutor for more than 20 years, offers individualized instruction for those struggling with ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, and autistic spectrum disorders.

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