• Español

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Preschool-Age Children

Inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity are all behavioral traits of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that also are normal behaviors for preschool children. Also, everyday behavior changes frequently in this age group, making it difficult to establish a pattern.

But very young children with ADHD generally have behaviors that are extreme and much more exaggerated than those of other children the same age.

Preschool children diagnosed with ADHD are not usually treated with medicine, because they are more likely to experience side effects. Parent training in techniques to improve a child's behavior is usually tried first, except in extreme cases or unusual circumstances. The Preschool ADHD Treatment Study (PATS) found that methylphenidate (Ritalin) is safe for preschool-age children in low doses. Preschool-age children taking stimulant medicine should be closely monitored. 1


  1. Vitiello B, et al. (2007). Effectiveness of methylphenidate in the 10-month continuation phase of the preschoolers with ADHD treatment study (PATS). Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 17(5): 593–603.
By Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised February 2, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.

More to explore