If you get exhausted just watching your youngster jump and zoom from one thing to the next, you may wonder whether this manic behavior is actually hyperactivity. Diagnosing hyperactivity in a 3-year-old is tough territory, states pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene. What feels like crazy, over-the-top antics might just be normal preschool energy.
Most 3-year-olds are intent on exploring the world with a voracious appetite for activity and exertion. Difficult or challenging? Ha -- a 3-year-old scoffs at the mere idea of something that’s too hard or out of his reach. He’ll use every ounce of energy and tenacity he has to reach his goals. You, on the other hand, are probably stumbling around in a stupor just trying to keep tabs on your little dynamo. Take heart – this is completely normal. This exuberance only lasts for a relatively short time, too. Generally, by the age of 4, a child is calmer and better able to chill.
Abnormal Energy Levels
If your little one’s energy level seems to eclipse the norm, you may be dealing with hyperactivity. Extreme energy and activity may manifest itself with symptoms like trouble focusing on one activity or task, not listening when addressed, not finishing tasks, trouble organizing activities, restlessness or fidgeting, excessive running and climbing, talking non-stop and an avoidance of quiet activities. A child exhibiting only a few of these symptoms would not be exhibiting abnormal behaviors. Generally, the difference between normal and abnormal behavior includes the severity, number of symptoms and length of symptoms.
If you’re wondering whether your youngster is showing above average exuberance and energy, Dr. Alan Greene recommends that you chat with caregivers involved in your child’s daily life: preschool teachers, daycare providers, Grandma and Sunday school teachers. These folks are the people who see your child frequently and interact on a meaningful level with him. Ask for comparisons – is your child more active, louder, more restless or less attentive than other kids?
Start with an appointment with your child’s regular doctor if you think the symptoms you’re seeing are over-the-top. After ruling out anything physical, you may get a referral to a specialist who can diagnose a hyperactivity disorder, if applicable. Remember, it’s extremely difficult to diagnose hyperactivity in kids younger than school age. In fact, even if you do get an ADHD diagnosis at this young age, it’s possible that the diagnosis won’t hold for the long term and your child will grow out of these extreme behaviors once he starts school.