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The Ages & Stages of ADHD: Key Solutions from Childhood to Adulthood

A timeline of developmental milestones, the most common ADHD-related challenges associated with each, and resourceful approaches that build skills — and confidence.

ADHD Symptoms Through the Ages & Stages of Life

Most childhood development charts end at age 5, years before the average ADHD evaluation and diagnosis. Yet each following life stage — childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood — is defined by hugely important developmental milestones, each one shaped or complicated in some way by symptoms of ADHD.

Here, find a timeline of essential skills at each phase of life, plus parallel ADHD-related challenges and expert strategies that span academics, relationships, emotions, organization, and beyond.

  • ADHD in Children: Research shows that positive reinforcement is particularly powerful at this stage. When elementary students struggle, negative consequences – punishment and harsh reactions – further destroy their confidence and self-concept.
  • ADHD in Adolescents: Scaffolding — not helicoptering — is the parenting strategy that aims to strengthen kids’ executive function muscle. Scaffolding parents provide structure and support to adolescent ADHD brains without taking the wheel and doing the tricky tasks themselves.
  • ADHD in Young Adults: It is the norm — not the exception — for college students with ADHD and other learning differences to experience academic, organizational, and social challenges. Compounding all of that is the fact that young adults don’t realize how much they have relied on external supports over the years.
  • ADHD in Adults: ADHD symptoms effectively managed for decades often flare out of control with major life changes like starting a family or changing jobs.