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Kids MD

St. Louis-based doctor details the signs of ADHD to look for in your child


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At this point, your children likely have already been back in school for at least a couple of weeks, and although many if not most are thriving, a few may already be struggling. Many things can cause difficulty in school, one of them being ADHD – attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a chronic condition present in varying degrees in millions of children.

Symptoms of ADHD include the hallmark difficulty to maintain attention, as well as impulsive behavior and sometimes physical hyperactivity. Children with ADHD may also suffer from low self-esteem and have difficulty with social interactions and relationships.

There are three types of ADHD: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive and a mix of those two types. Children who are inattentive may be careless in their work, may have trouble focusing on tasks, may have difficulty organizing themselves or may be easily distracted and forgetful. Children who are hyperactive may be fidgety, constantly in motion, may talk loudly and inappropriately and may have trouble playing and completing activities.

It can be difficult to distinguish symptoms of ADHD from normal development. Most healthy children are inattentive at times and to varying degrees – it’s easy to be inattentive when the activity or task at hand lacks interest. Children are also energetic by nature; their energy naturally lasts longer than that of their parents or grandparents. Behavior patterns in children with ADHD are generally consistent. Children with problems at school but none at home or children who are inattentive and hyperactive at home but do well in school are less likely to have ADHD.

The causes of ADHD are unclear. Risk factors include genetics, which is a risk factor for many conditions; exposure to toxins such as lead; and maternal drug or alcohol use during pregnancy. Children with ADHD are also more likely to have other conditions such as oppositional defiant disorder, learning disabilities and conduct and mood disorders.

Next month, I’ll touch on the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.

If you’re concerned your child may have ADHD, and it’s impacting his or her daily interactions, reach out to your child’s pediatrician, or find a doctor at

Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (, an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.

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