Detecting Early Warning Signs of ADHD in Children 

By: Taneia Surles, MPH, HAPPI Health

Most people expect young children to be full of energy burned off by playing with toys, having fun with friends, or other forms of physical activity. However, what happens when a child cannot focus at school after playtime? When a child cannot concentrate for an extended period or get tasks done, there’s a strong possibility that they’re showing early signs of ADHD.

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is the “ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development” (NIH, 2022). A 2016 report revealed that the mental health condition was found in 6.1 million (or 9.4%) children aged 2-17 years old in the United States (CDC, 2020). People often intertwine ADHD and ADD (attention deficit disorder), although the former includes hyperactivity. 

According to Meagan Gusmus, a CRNP at HAPPI Health’s behavioral health department, signs of ADHD can arise once they start school. “At age four or five, they’re entering preschool and kindergarten, where a parent may see a (behavioral) difference between their child versus another child,” says Gusmus. “Then, getting that child into a school structure can be more of an issue.”  

The three main signs of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. These categories are further broken down by the following symptoms: (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2022):  

• Forgetfulness   
• Poor academic performance 
• Having to repeat kindergarten or another elementary school grade 
• Lack of attentiveness 
• Carelessness 
• Poor organizational skills 
• Constant fidgeting 
• Regular daydreaming 

For ADHD, there are several methods to diagnose this condition. At HAPPI Health, Gusmus and other practitioners use the Test of Variable Attention (T.O.V.A.). T.O.V.A. is a computerized neuropsychological assessment that measures a patient’s attention and inhibitory control for those aged four and up (T.O.V.A. Test, 2022).   

Currently, there is no cure for ADHD, but treatment plans are available. After receiving a diagnosis, parents can choose the best treatment option recommended by a healthcare professional.  
Treatment for ADHD can include (Story, C.M., 2022):  

• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)  
• Stimulants such as amphetamine or Adderall  
• Non-stimulants like atomoxetine (Strattera) or bupropion (Wellbutrin)    
• Supplements such as zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B-6  

At HAPPI Health, parents can get their children tested for ADHD with T.O.V.A. and receive CBT and other behavioral services at our Sparkman clinic at 2597 Sparkman Drive.  

Meagan Gusmus is a board-certified family nurse practitioner. She graduated with her BSN in Nursing at the University of North Alabama and obtained her MSN-FNP in Nursing at Troy University. She has a nursing background in long-term care, rehabilitation, and senior mental health. She enjoys working at HAPPI Health, especially with the HAPPI Behavioral Health services.   


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