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ADHD or Just Kids being Kids?

Remember the days before you were a parent when you used to dream about what your “future child” would be like. You know, things like, “My future child would never run around the grocery store like those little monsters” or, “My future child would never dare ignore me.”

Then came the reality check!

Funny to think about now, as kids always humble us once we become parents ourselves. But how do you know when your child’s rambunctious behaviors are a normal part of their development or if they are a sign of a learning disability? While some level of impulsivity and inattentiveness is expected in all children, these symptoms can cause serious educational roadblocks for children with ADHD.

ADHD? Aren’t they just acting their age?

Let me guess, your cousin’s boyfriend’s best friend’s babysitter said that ADHD isn’t a thing and that parents made it up because they couldn’t deal with their kid being a little “high energy.” Unfortunately, many misinformed people have stigmatized ADHD and don’t realize that it is a recognized brain disorder with a strong genetic component. Without understanding and support both at home and at school, ADHD can really put a damper on a child’s educational potential. If you’re still skeptical, try one of these ADHD simulators to get an idea of what it feels like to experience school with ADHD symptoms.

And it’s not one-size-fits-all

There are three types of ADHD, each characterized by different symptoms. A child with ADHD might start with one type and then experience different symptoms throughout their lives. It’s important that families and educators understand which type(s) a child is experiencing so they can tailor their teaching methods to break through their specific symptoms.

The three types include:

  1. Hyperactive – Impulsive: Hyperactive children don’t necessarily have issues with paying attention but struggle with impulsivity. Your child may have this form of ADHD if she:

    • Can’t seem to control her impulses

    • Interrupts conversations frequently

    • Constantly moves around

    • Has trouble taking turns or waiting in line

  2. Inattentive: Unlike their hyperactive counterparts, children with the inattentive form of ADHD are generally less disruptive. Your child may have Inattentive ADHD if he:

    • Struggles with paying attention

    • Can start tasks but never seems to finish them

    • Often appears to be daydreaming

    • Is prone to losing things

  3. Combined: Children with combined ADHD struggle with both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

How do I know if my child has ADHD?

Most children display some level of impulsivity and distractedness, so how do you know if your child’s behavior should be a concern? The most accurate way to determine if your child has ADHD is by having them evaluated by an experienced specialist who understands how to identify the different types of ADHD among other learning disabilities. Even if your child is hyper or easily distracted, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have ADHD. Many conditions can exhibit similar symptoms, so it is important to have an experienced specialist evaluate your child to assess all of the factors that can lead to an ADHD diagnosis.

Click here to connect with our Psychological Testing specialist

What does an ADHD test look like?

At your child’s evaluation, your specialist will ask you and your child a series of questions to get a thorough understanding of your child’s symptoms, areas of struggle, and medical history. They may observe them at play or completing homework and may evaluate their IQ, reasoning, memory, and assess their skills for sustaining attention, avoiding distraction, planning, and organizing through performance testing. They will compare your child’s results with standard indicators of ADHD.

So my child has ADHD – what’s next?

If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, your specialist can help you learn techniques to manage your child’s symptoms so they can maximize their learning experience. A simple and effective way to help your child overcome ADHD symptoms is to teach them to apply FOCUS skills, an intervention strategy developed by one of Variations Psychology specialists, Dr. Marta M. Shinn.

Teaching your child to FOCUS

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Make them aware

Talk to your child about what it means to focus, having their eyes, ears, and hands focused on their task at hand. Tell them about what it means to be distracted – taking their eyes, ears, and hands away from their task before they’ve completed it. Have your child memorize the FOCUS skills and go over the acronym every time they sit down for a task.

Eyes on the prize

Even for children struggling with inattention, rewards can be a great incentive to stay on task. Introduce them to a token economy system such as a star chart or a coin jar. Have your child practice using the FOCUS skills to complete tasks such as building blocks or puzzles. Gradually add distractions such as music, TV, or other activities to challenge them to maintain their focus even when distractions arise. When they successfully complete a task, reward them.

He’s not cut out for school!

Most classroom models aren’t exactly geared toward kids who have trouble sitting still or paying attention, and if a child with ADHD is treated as a “problem student” by the teacher, it is likely that they will end up developing negative attitudes about school. That’s why it is important that as a parent, you learn your child’s options and how to advocate for what is best for their future.

Communication is key

Communicate with your child’s teacher often. Keep them on the same page with what you’ve been doing at home (FOCUS skills, reward systems). Also, listen to what his teacher is doing to support his growth. By communicating and working as a team, the classroom can become an extension of the supportive structure you are providing at home.

I’m not cut out for this!

It can feel overwhelming to discover your child has learning or attention issues; you want the best for their future, and it is scary to think of anything holding them back. You may be thinking, “I’m not an expert on ADHD – that’s why I’m reading this blog! How am I supposed to tell professional educators how they should be teaching my kid?!” The answer is that you don’t have to do this alone. A specialist in educational advocacy can help you understand your child’s educational rights and how to ensure that the school meets their unique needs.

Click here to learn about Dr. Marta Shinn, Specialist in Educational Advocacy

Variations can help

Whether you are wondering if your child has ADHD or if they’ve been diagnosed and you’re not sure how to support them, Variations experienced team of specialists can help.

Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is a specialist in psychological testing and an expert in child and educational psychology. Dr. Shinn specializes in helping families understand the special education processes conducted by schools and empowering them to become informed advocates for their children. By providing parents with a thorough understanding of academic evaluations and practices, Dr. Shinn helps parents determine the best educational path for their child.

*Please note: since the publishing of this blog, Variations Psychology has narrowed its focus to diagnostic testing and psychological evaluations. Our Doctors can evaluate whether you or your loved one have a diagnosis and guide you through the next steps in achieving your mental health or academic goals. While Variations does not offer counseling, our diagnostic evaluations allow us to refer patients to specialists who are best equipped to meet their needs. In addition, this link can guide you through a directory of therapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups in your area.

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More about Variations Psychology

Variations Psychology is a group practice specializing in Child and Family Psychology.

Our specialists provide therapy to infants, children, adolescents, and adults to help them overcome the many challenges they may face throughout the lifespan of a family. We also conduct diagnostic testing of child and adult conditions that may impact the family’s mental health and development (e.g. ADHD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disorders, college entrance exams).
See our Specialists page to select the specialist that best suits your need, or simply give us a call and we will guide you.

Variations Psychology is located in Newport Beach, CA and provides counseling to residents throughout Orange County and its surrounding areas including Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Irvine, Shady Canyon, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Coto de Caza, Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Yorba Linda, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Pelican Hill, Crystal Cove, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, and more.


Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Dealing with Feelings Modules, 2016 Study

National Center for Learning Disabilities

How to Cite This Blog Article:

Shinn, M.M. (2018). ADHD or Just Kids being Kids?  Psychologically Speaking.

[Variations Psychology blog post].  Retrieved from