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ADHD Symptoms in Children


Updated June 19, 2009

The Daydreamers vs The Energizer Bunnies

Sometimes it is confusing to sort through all the different symptoms of ADHD in children. There are three main types of ADHD.

  • Predominately Hyperactive/Impulsive Type of ADHD
  • Predominately Inattentive Type of ADHD (typically referred to simply as ADD)
  • Combined Type of ADHD

Predominately Hyperactive/Impulsive Type of ADHD

Think of these types of children as the energizer bunnies in constant motion. They tend to move about excessively, fidgeting and squirming, and always into things. Remaining seated when expected to is often an impossible task. These children act before thinking, have difficulty waiting their turn, blurt out and interrupt others. Often times they seem to be like chatter boxes - talking, talking, talking. They may have trouble with personal boundaries, invading other’s space or grabbing things, and appear less mature than their same age peers.

Predominately Inattentive Type of ADHD

Children with predominately inattentive behaviors, more commonly referred to as ADD, may act very differently. These are the “daydreamers.” They may appear spacey, forgetful, and distracted. They move from one activity to the next, never quite able to complete a task. Often times they begin a task without waiting for the directions and end up frustrated and uncertain. They may seem rather messy, careless and disorganized.

These kids also tend to process information slowly. When you give them directions, it may seem that they are not hearing you. Girls with ADHD are most frequently diagnosed with the inattentive type. These kids draw less attention and are often overlooked or viewed as slow, unmotivated, or as underachievers. They are not any of these, they simply process information differently.

Combined Type of ADHD

Children who have the combined type of ADHD, exhibit not only the inattentive behaviors but also the hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.

Dr. Linda Sonna Provides Additional Information

Dr. Linda Sonna, psychologist and author of 10 parenting books, including the Parent’s Guide to ADD/ADHD, helps to further explain the differences between our “daydreamers” and our “energizer bunnies.”

“Children with a classic ‘artistic temperament’ may be diagnosed with ADD because their propensity for daydreaming can cause them to lose the thread of conversations and respond in ways that seem ‘off the wall,’” notes Dr. Sonna. “Moreover, their tendency to combine information in novel ways and to overlook mundane details can make some seemingly simple organizational tasks very challenging for them.”

Dr. Sonna recommends that parents help by giving their child “the time and space to tune into their own thoughts, encouraging them to express their thoughts both verbally and through art and music, walking them through tasks that require them to sort and organize, and affirming their differences rather than viewing them as deficiencies.”

“Meanwhile, many high-energy children seem to possess what has been dubbed the ‘Edison’ gene, named for Thomas Edison who was permanently expelled from 3rd grade due to his difficult behavior,” explains Dr. Sonna. “Because of their high energy level, these youngsters may be diagnosed with ADHD. On the one hand, they seem highly impulsive, inattentive, and disorganized as they race from one activity to the next. On the other hand, they can suddenly hone in on situations that capture their attention to the point of being oblivious to all else.” This phenomenon of “honing in” is known as hyperfocus and it can be a real asset if used appropriately.

The high energy level of these “hyperactive heroes” can cause behavior problems in classrooms where they are expected to spend most of their time sitting. “Lots of vigorous daily exercise is a proven antidote, so unplug the TV and send them out to play,” recommends Dr. Sonna. “Their hands-on learning style is a problem in classrooms that emphasize reading and listening, so be ready to round out their schooling with as many educational games as your budget permits.”

ADHD: So Much More Than Just Hyperactivity

Additional Reading:
Parenting Children and Teens with ADD/ADHD
Strategies for School Success
Parenting a Child with ADHD


American Academy of Pediatrics. ADHD: A Complete and Authoritative Guide. 2004.

Linda Sonna, PhD. Interview/correspondence. 04, Jan 2008.

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