Signs & Symptoms of ADHD in 5 Year Olds

Updated June 13, 2017

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, can be difficult to identify in young children because they have not experienced the types of environments in which ADHD becomes most problematic. As your 5-year-old enters school, knowing the signs and symptoms of ADHD can help you determine whether she is affected by the disorder.


The Mayo Clinic defines Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as a chronic condition in which a child continuously displays inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 4.4 million school-age children suffered from ADHD in 2003. Approximately 4.1 per cent of the surveyed sample fell between the ages of 4 and 8.

General Symptoms

ADHD in 5-year-old children can look very different than the symptoms of their older peers. Children are just beginning school at this age, so it is advisable to look out for symptoms including difficulty maintaining focus on a task or while at play, difficulty following rules or completing work, and frequently losing items such as pencils, books or toys. Children with ADHD are also often easily distracted and unable to sit still.

Types of ADHD

There are three types of ADHD, each type displaying slightly different symptoms. Inattentive Type is difficult to recognise because these children are not a distraction to the class. They typically do not disrupt class by getting out their seats or telling jokes at inappropriate times. In contrast, children with Hyperactive/Impulsive Type ADHD might have trouble controlling their talking and energy. These kids might make decisions without thinking them through, but they also have more ability to pay attention. Finally, a child with Combined Type ADHD struggles with both inattentiveness and hyperactivity.

Gender Differences

There are prevalent differences between boys and girls diagnosed with ADHD, according to research surveyed by licensed psychologist Lesley Jameson. Girls tend to suffer from the Inattentive Type of ADHD and often appear more withdrawn and anxious. Girls with this diagnosis also generally have more problems with attention than boys. Jameson points out that because these girls do not misbehave in class, their struggles are more likely to be overlooked.

Boys with ADHD tend to fall under the Hyperactive/Impulsive Type. They are more likely to appear restless, uncooperative and uninterested in following rules. Because of this tendency, Jameson notes, boys are three times more likely to be identified as suffering from ADHD.

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About the Author

Sara Rusk has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been featured in online and print publications including Living Indefinitely, Widethinker, and "In Other Words." Primarily focusing on work for eHow and LIVESTRONG.COM, Rusk writes articles relevant in the fields of psychology, art, and healthy living. She holds a Master of Science in counseling psychology from the University of Albany.