Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder in toddlers are difficult to pinpoint, because there are no specific neurological indicators or organic signs that are associated with the disorder. The signs used for diagnosis are behavioral and are generally found before age 3, though they can appear as late as age 7, according to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.
To understand the symptoms of ADD, you first must understand the definition of the disorder. ADD is defined as a regularly occurring impulsive and inappropriate behavior that is caused by dopamine neurotransmitter systems malfunctioning in the brain, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. When the brain isn’t releasing enough dopamine, the body tries to stimulate more by moving rapidly in cases where hyperactivity are present.
ADD is diagnosed by a doctor after reviewing information about habits that a child performs throughout the day. Often school records, if the toddler goes to preschool, will be reviewed.
Because of the age, some common ADD symptoms may be confused with the behavior of a normal, fussy toddler. Toddlers who suffer from ADD may cry more and have an inability to be consoled. The toddler may also be easily distracted, have difficulty concentrating on one thing or may be unable to focus on simple directions. These are called the “inattention” symptoms. The “impulsivity” symptoms include problems with taking turns with others, trouble switching from one task to another and doing something without thinking of the consequences, such as touching a hot stove.
Hyperactivity is also often included in the symptoms of toddler ADD, though severe hyperactivity is usually considered as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Toddlers who are hyper are constantly moving and seem to never stop. They may flail their limbs when standing or sitting and may constantly be running, bouncing or climbing.
Children must display these symptoms consistently for more than 6 months to be diagnosed with ADD.
There are two major treatments for ADD symptoms. Stimulants are common but work only in about 80 percent of cases, according to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Behavior modification may be an alternative to medication to calm the symptoms.