Early Signs of ADHD Released by Kennedy Kreiger Institute

Based on current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, 1 in 11 school-aged children is diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), but ADHD is currently the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder among preschool-age children as well.

A Biological Basis

As ADHD involves differences in brain development, there is a biological component to the condition. Information from the Kennedy Kreiger Institute suggests that differences in behavior are noticeable at a young age, primarily by parent report. Noting ADHD symptoms early provides more time for intervention- crucial as an earlier onset may be related to higher risk for academic concerns. Recent studies using neurological imaging of the brain suggest that children with ADHD have a smaller caudate nucleus than their same-age peers. This part of the brain is associated with motor control, as well as cognitive control.

Symptoms to Watch For

Dr. Mahone, of the Kennedy Kreiger Institute, suggests that parents look for the following symptoms in preschool children (ages 3-4 years old).

  • Avoids activities that need attention for longer then 1-2 minutes
  • Loses interest rapidly (or cycles between activities quickly)
  • Talks more, or makes more noise, than other same-age peers
  • Climbs things when told not to
  • Cannot hop on 1 foot by the age of 4 years old
  • Consistently restless
  • Fearless and ends up in dangerous situations
  • Warms up too quickly to strangers (no “stranger danger”Smilie: ;)
  • Aggressive with peers (or has been removed from preschool due to aggression)
  • Has been injured because of running or moving too fast (requiring a hospital visit for stitches or more)


Parents should monitor a child’s behavior and if they have concerns should speak to their pediatrician regarding their child’s development. If they would like additional information, speaking with a behavioral health provider or professional may be helpful. Recommendations can be obtained through their pediatrician, or health care professional. Parents should monitor their child carefully, so that supports can be put in place while the child is young and negative impacts on academics can be limited. It is important to not immediately assume the child has ADHD due to several of the symptoms listed above; however. Treatment should be discussed and considered carefully, as some parents prefer more natural or behavioral interventions, as many stimulants (medications often used to treat ADHD) have not been evaluated for long-term risk in children as young as 3 or 4 years old.

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