Characteristics of an ADHD Inattentive Child

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asking for forgivenessChildren with ADHD Inattentive or Distractible type often:

  • make careless mistakes because they aren’t paying attention to their schoolwork or chores.
  • are academically inconsistent. They may understand a subject or concept, but be unable to make a passing grade because of unfinished work, missing assignments, or misunderstood directions. Often their grades range from very high to very low.
  • seem “spaced out”. They may appear to be paying attention, when in reality they are miles away.
  • don’t finish work at school or home, not because they are being disobedient, but because they are distracted. Adults often call them lazy or irresponsible.
  • are extremely disorganized in their environment and activities. Their book bags, rooms, and desks are always a mess, and they spend inordinate amounts of time looking for things.
  • have difficulty beginning activities because they cannot decide which thing to do first.
  • lose things. Many times these things are important to academic success: pencils, books, homework, notes, and gym clothes are tops on the list.
  • are distracted by noises, movement, or even thoughts.
  • forget.
  • wet the bed.
  • do not sleep well, and are “up and down” all night.
  • have poor handwriting, especially in cursive.

While these are all the textbook characteristics of an ADHD inattentive child, you cannot diagnose your child with ADHD. If you suspect ADHD in your child and feel that it is interfering with academic or social success, contact your physician.


According to the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., rev.) (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), to be diagnosed as having ADD/ADHD, the clinician must note the presence of at least 6 of the 9 following criteria for either Attention Span or Hyperactivity/Impulsivity.

Attention Span Criteria | Pays little attention to details; makes careless mistakes | Has short attention span | Does not listen when spoken to directly | Does not follow instructions; fails to finish tasks | Has difficulty organizing tasks | Avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort | Loses things | Is easily distracted | Is forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity Criteria
Fidgets; squirms in seat | Leaves seat in classroom when remaining seated is expected | Often runs about or climbs excessively at inappropriate times | Has difficulty playing quietly | Talks excessively

Impulsivity Criteria | Blurts out answers before questions are completed | Has difficulty awaiting turn | Often interrupts or intrudes on others

If a ADHD is suspected in a child, a child is often evaluated using the Conners Rating Scale. Questionnaires are completed by the parent and teachers, and the results are scored. There are three types of ADHD:

ADHD Combined type. It is characterized by hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. This is the most commonly diagnosed form of ADHD, and is often diagnosed quite early.

ADHD Impulsive/Hyperactive type. The least common of the ADHD types, this is characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity without distractibility.

ADHD Inattentive/Distractible type. This is characterized by inattention and distractibility. It is often seen in girls, and often goes undiagnosed until middle or high school.

….Education Development Center, Inc. (1998). Teaching children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED423633).