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What you may see
No doubt you've noticed that your toddler likes to be in motion, and that's perfectly normal. What's not normal is excessive movement, like constant fidgeting or talking, or involuntary movement, like a tic.
Of course, at this age it's hard to determine what's considered excessive. But if you're concerned, talk with your toddler's doctor.
Though it may turn out to be nothing, an uncontrolled motion – like a tic, tremor, convulsion, seizure, or grimace – warrants medical evaluation, says Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen's Children's Medical Center of New York. Identifying problems early is just one reason regular wellness checkups are so important for your toddler.
What causes it
Some experts believe that constant moving or fidgeting – even in toddlers – may signal a form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
But the clinical diagnosis of ADHD so closely matches a general description of typical toddler behavior (squirming, running or climbing excessively, difficulty waiting for a turn) that it's very hard to accurately diagnose ADHD until a child is a bit older. The American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines for identifying ADHD start with 4-year-olds and go from there.
Tics and seizures, on the other hand, may be caused by a variety of conditions that affect the nervous system and should be thoroughly evaluated by your toddler's doctor.
What your doctor may recommend
"ADHD shouldn't be on anyone's mind during toddlerhood," Adesman says. "If there's a family history of ADHD, you might wonder, but it's not reasonable to diagnose it in a toddler." Parents of very active toddlers may need help with behavior management techniques or simply more frequent breaks than parents of quieter kids.
But if you suspect ADHD when your child is older, ask his doctor to refer you to a specialist for an evaluation. If ADHD or another condition is diagnosed, you'll work with your child's healthcare provider to develop a plan to help him function well in school and at home. Treatment depends on test results and may include counseling, behavioral therapy, or medication.