What are typical levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity?
Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are common in children younger than 6 years of age. As they get older, the demands placed on them gradually increase and if they remain inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive, they will likely have trouble keeping up in school and during activities.
There are other circumstances during which children and teens may evidence inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity:
- When they are not getting enough sleep.
- When they are not eating right.
- When they are feeling anxious or stressed.
- When they are feeling sad or low.
- When they are too distracted by the use of technology and electronics.
Even children whose maturity lingers behind their peers, eventually catch up and issues with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity do not persist into young adulthood.
When should I be concerned about a child’s inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity?
Caregivers should be concerned about their child’s or adolescent’s inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity when they are resulting in problems at home, with peers, or in the classroom. Some common issues related to inattention to look out for are:
- Making too many careless errors in schoolwork.
- Being easily distracted.
- Presenting difficulty listening when spoken to.
- Presenting difficulty following instructions.
- Having an excessive hard time with long, sustained tasks.
- Being forgetful most of the time and of simple things.
- Losing things regularly.
Some common issues related to hyperactivity are:
- Having trouble staying in one place for long.
- Excessive running, climbing, or moving around.
- Trouble playing quietly.
Some common issues related to impulsivity are:
- Being impatient.
- Having trouble waiting for a turn.
- Interrupting others.
- Blurting things out.
Some children and adolescents may have issues with only a few of these things, some with more. In general, children and adolescents who experience issues related to inattention are likely to also experience issues with hyperactivity and impulsivity, which can make it very difficult for them to function in school, and in other activities, and can create a lot of conflict at home.
What can I do to help a child with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity?
Caregivers know their children best. If you are a caregiver, there are a few things you may attempt:
- Talk to your child's teacher. If you notice your child is having some inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity problems, reach out to their teacher. Speaking with the child's teacher can help determine if their struggles are also happening at school, if anything has been tried to remediate their struggles at school, and to learn if there are additional ways of supporting your child.
- Talk to your child so both of you can know how long your child is able to pay attention. Being mindful of how long your child is able to pay attention can help them stay on the task they have to.
- Help your child to break big tasks into several small steps so that they can focus on one thing at a time.
- Help your child to create schedules throughout the day with breaks built in and to set goals using time limits to make sure they remain on tasks until they are complete.
- Help your child to create checklists or use a planner to keep track of tasks and reduce forgetfulness.
- Create a system of reward with your child to keep them motivated to engage and accomplish tasks.
- Give your child calm reminders when it is important for them to be seated and not moving around.
- Give your child the opportunity to move around during the day so that it may reduce the chances of creating problems during other tasks.
- Avoid being critical of your child. In nearly all situations, inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive children are not willfully having issues and they are not trying to make things difficult. Punishments do not go a long way and even have the potential to lead to further issues down the road.
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems your child is facing persist, it may be time to seek out professional support.
Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those experienced by children the same age, and that negatively interfere with your child and family’s daily lives, may indicate the possibility of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
What kind of professional support can I seek out for help?
It is not unusual that some caregivers feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty if their child is struggling with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. But, if you are concerned about your child, support and guidance are available now. Communicate concerns during and between visits with your child's doctor.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful. These professionals also work with caregivers so that they know how to support their children outside of therapy sessions.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.