ADHD symptoms checklist for children and adults: The gift of ADHD

An ADHD symptoms checklist only looks at the negative aspects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Our Academy’s ADHD symptoms checklist, however, looks at both the negative and positive characteristics of the learning disability and explores the reason behind ADHD’s utmost diverse energy.

A recent Forbes news report titled “The ADHD Entrepreneur” focuses on a few of the characteristics found on the ADHD symptoms checklist for adults – doing too much and not finishing anything. The business and financial news magazine emphasizes that big companies investing in businesses are looking for the owner’s long-time commitment, not the ADHD tendency to run with the wind.

ADHD adult entrepreneurs speak out

Forbes states that Richard Branson, the English business entrepreneur who founded the Virgin Group, meets most of the criteria on an ADHD symptoms checklist for adults. Branson “had started a handful of businesses before his 25th birthday and never runs anything he starts.”

David Neeleman, who founded JetBlue Airways, is also included by the magazine in the list of adult ADHD entrepreneurs. When speaking about the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder, Neeleman focuses on the positive signs – creativity, vision, and the willingness to take risks.

Prodigy Engineering founder Mark Patey, who also scores high on the ADHD symptoms checklist, stated that ADHD can be a blessing “and at times a curse.”

ADHD symptoms in children

Besides meeting about every aspect on the ADHD symptoms checklist, the three adults have a lot more in common. Branson, who struggled with dyslexia in addition to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, left school at the age of 16. Branson says, I had “no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever.”

Neeleman tried to focus in school and get the information written on a page into his brain, but it was a frustrating and uphill battle that left him feeling stupid. “It was tough. I thought I was stupid, that I didn’t have what the other kids had. In third grade, sitting inside at recess, not being able to go out, because I couldn’t get my work done. That was difficult.”

Mark Patey displayed ADHD symptoms as a child and was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in fifth grade. Following his ADHD diagnosis, Patey was placed into a special education class along with mentally handicapped children and the school’s troublemakers.

ADHD symptoms in entrepreneur adults

As adult, 66-year-old Richard Branson can see his ADHD symptoms as an amazing gift. His diverse ADHD energy has enabled him to start innumerable successful businesses, strive for sailing or ballooning world records, and the desire to reach for the universe.

As adult, 57-year-old David Neeleman can credit his ADHD symptoms with having turned into a successful entrepreneur. As Psychiatrist Dale Archer  points out, ”entrepreneurship fits perfectly with the ADHDer’s need for stimulation and a willingness to take risks.”

As adult, 43-year-old Mark Patey recognizes his ADHD as the kind of energy that is needed to pursue innovative ideas and to build numerous successful companies. Speaking for himself and his twin brother, Patey attributes his success to his energy and being a workaholic.

The difference between gift & curse

Unfortunately, not all adults can talk about their ADHD symptoms like Branson, Neeleman, or Patey. Even though Neeleman was not diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder until he was in his mid-thirties, he had what Branson and Patey had – the support of his parents.

“But my parents were always positive,” says Neeleman today. “They always tried to get me to look on the bright side and tried to let me know that I had other talents that maybe would be better than just reading something on a page.”

ADHD symptoms checklist

In contrast to dyslexia or other learning disabilities, there is no single-test diagnosis for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Whether or not a child or adult has ADHD relies on the symptoms and signs observed by the individual and others around him or her.

The CDC’s ADHD symptoms checklist for children distinguishes between inattention and hyperactivity or impulsivity. In contrast to the physical symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity, inattention addresses the mental challenges accompanying ADHD.

Symptoms of Inattention in ADHD children

  • Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the
  • workplace (loses focus, gets sidetracked).
  • Often has trouble organizing activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time
  • (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  • Is often easily distracted.
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and/or Impulsivity in ADHD kids

  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat when sitting still is expected.
  • Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
  • Often excessively runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate.
  • Often has trouble playing or doing leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
  • Often has trouble waiting one’s turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).

The CDC advises that if a child displays six or more of the above signs for either inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity over a period of at least six months – and the ADHD symptoms appear to be disruptive and inappropriate for a child’s developmental level — parents might want to share their observations with their health care provider.

Since there is no single test that can confirm the findings on the ADHD symptoms checklist, parents need to be aware that some of the above symptoms might be caused by other learning disabilities like emotional disabilities (including anxiety, depression, OCD) or dyslexia.

At our Academy, 90 percent of the students who came to us with a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD from their previous schools (diagnosed by the schools’ counselors) did not actually have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder.

Despite qualifying for most of the characteristics on the ADHD symptoms checklist, our students were eventually diagnosed correctly by healthcare professionals as having emotional disabilities (anxiety, depression, OCD). After adjusting our students’ environment and academic studies to their individual needs, none of our students had to take medication and were able to pursue their interests and passion in life.

ADHD symptoms checklist for adults

In contrast to the ADHD symptoms checklist for children, the adult ADHD symptoms checklist focuses more on the work/home environment and interpersonal relationships. Many adults are unaware that they might be dealing with ADHD symptoms because ADHD in adults is a lot harder to recognize.

Symptoms of Inattention in ADHD adults

  1. You have trouble getting organized: Whether it comes to bills, keeping appointments, or keeping track of important paperwork, it all seems to be an insurmountable task.
  2. You have trouble setting priorities in what needs to get accomplished.
  3. You have trouble following driving directions, get lost, or even forget where you are.
  4. You have trouble listening to your partner (married or otherwise). Even though you try to listen, your mind drifts to other thoughts.
  5. You have trouble staying on task and get easily distracted. (The video below has a nice example of that).
  6. You have trouble remembering to pick up your child from an activity, pick up the dry cleaning, or where you placed your keys.
  7. You have trouble completing a project and feel like you have to move on to something else before the project is finished.
  8. You tend to be late for meetings or appointments because you forgot the time or forgot something at home and had to go back.
  9. You have trouble sleeping because your mind races with a million different thoughts.
  10. You feel anxious and depressed with no apparent reason. (Your ADHD can cause anxiety and depression when you are unable to meet the needs of ADHD energy.)

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and/or Impulsivity in ADHD adults

  1. You feel like you have to keep moving and are uncomfortable relaxing.
  2. You dread sitting in a movie theater for two hours. If you do go to see a movie, you feel the need to get up or move around in your chair.
  3. You feel the urge to drive faster than other drivers. Even though you might follow traffic rules, your foot seems to want to step on the gas pedal, you want to pass other drivers, or even try to cut them off to get ahead of them.
  4. You have trouble waiting in line at the grocery store, the movie theater, or other places where things might not go the way you’d like them to.
  5. You tend to talk to anyone, even though someone else might not have any interest in what you have to say.
  6. You are impulsive when it comes to shopping or committing to something that you later regret.
  7. Act first, think later is a common characteristics of hyperactivity and impulsivity in adults.
  8. You easily explode into outbursts, get loud, and have trouble controlling what you say.
  9. You feel like (or actually do) hit something or someone in the spur of the moment.
  10. You feel like you have difficulties controlling your emotions and your actions.

As seen in the ADHD symptoms checklist for children, the checklist for adults distinguishes between mental ADHD (inattention) and physical ADHD (hyperactivity and impulsivity). Generally, symptoms without hyperactivity or impulsivity are considered to be aspects of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), not ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

ADD or ADHD can be a curse or a gift as Branson, Neeleman, and Patey point out. In either case, there is a humorous side to looking at Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Watch the video below, complete the video’s ADHD symptoms checklist – and smile.