Could My Child Have ADHD? How Can I Find Out?
If you have a wild child, who is constantly running around and unable to sit still, you may wonder if they have ADHD. It can be difficult to tell if your kid is just being a kid, or if something deeper is going on. You may be asking yourself, are all toddlers this active?
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a mental health disorder that is typically diagnosed in childhood. Sometimes, a parent will notice the hyperactivity symptoms at home, other times a child will be referred by a school teacher.
According to WebMD kids with ADHD can be recognized by the following signs:
Are in constant motion
Squirm and fidget
Do not seem to listen
Have trouble playing quietly
Often talk excessively
Interrupt or intrude on others
Are easily distracted
Do not finish tasks
If your child is unable to sit still or focus on a task for any length of time, you may begin to question if this applies to them.
You can look at your child when playing in a group to get some idea. Is your child much more wild than others? Or, do they seem about the same? Typically, children with ADHD will have behavior that stands out from their peers. This is one reason why ADHD is more frequently noticed by teachers in school than by parents at home.
ADHD is a prevalent childhood disorder. According to the CDC,
The estimated number of children ever diagnosed with ADHD, according to a national 2016 parent survey,1 is 6.1 million (9.4%). This number includes:
388,000 children aged 2–5 years
2.4 million children aged 6–11 years
3.3 million children aged 12–17 years
Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls (12.9% compared to 5.6%).1
Since many children are diagnosed with ADHD each year, much research has been done on this topic, and help is available.
What should you expect if you take your child to be diagnosed with ADHD? A child will need to be diagnosed by a mental health provider or primary care physician, although they can be referred by a school or a parent, they will not be formally diagnosed at the school.
According to WebMD,
There is no specific or definitive test for ADHD. Instead, diagnosing is a process that takes several steps and involves gathering a lot of information from multiple sources. You, your child, your child's school, and other caregivers should be involved in assessing your child's behavior. A doctor will also ask what symptoms your child has, how long ago those symptoms started, and how the behavior affects your child and the rest of your family. Doctors diagnose ADHD in children after a child has shown six or more specific symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity on a regular basis for more than 6 months in at least two settings. The doctor will consider how a child's behavior compares with that of other children the same age.
A doctor will give your child a physical exam, take a medical history, and may even give them a noninvasive brain scan.
Your child's primary care doctor can determine whether your child has ADHD using standard guidelines developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which says the condition may be diagnosed in children ages 4 to 18. Symptoms, though, must begin by age 12.
If your child's behavior has become extreme, a diagnosis may occur quickly. One of my girlfriends has a child with ADHD. He was struggling at school and having behavior issues. She took him in to a consult with the doctor, got a psychiatrist appointment the next day, and had a diagnosis right away.
This can be extremely helpful if you or your child's teacher is becoming overwhelmed with problem behaviors.
There are both behavioral treatments for ADHD, as well as medications that are commonly used to treat this condition. You may even be advised to change your child's diet.
Even if your child is being medicated, it is important to invest time into behavioral treatments as well. Showing your child more attention when they are behaving well than when they are behaving badly will help to provide reinforcement of their prosocial behaviors.
According to the Mayo Clinic, "Standard treatments for ADHD in children include medications, behavior therapy, counseling and education services. These treatments can relieve many of the symptoms of ADHD, but they don't cure it. It may take some time to determine what works best for your child."
Just as every child is unique, what works for your child and your family will be somewhat unique as well.
In addition to medications, the Mayo Clinic says that,
Examples of therapy include:
Behavior therapy. Teachers and parents can learn behavior-changing strategies, such as token reward systems and timeouts, for dealing with difficult situations.
Social skills training. This can help children learn appropriate social behaviors.
Parenting skills training. This can help parents develop ways to understand and guide their child's behavior.
Psychotherapy. This allows older children with ADHD to talk about issues that bother them, explore negative behavior patterns and learn ways to deal with their symptoms.
Family therapy. Family therapy can help parents and siblings deal with the stress of living with someone who has ADHD.
Combining one or more of these therapies with Medication can help your child with ADHD to thrive in school and in other areas of their life. Teaching kids coping skills is especially important in addition to other types of therapy.
You may benefit from going to therapy or parenting skills classes as well, so that you will better know how to support your child.
My girlfriend got therapy and medication for her son with ADHD, and he has benefitted greatly. She has told me that she is glad that she got him diagnosed early.
One day he told her, "Mom, I'm not a bad person."
She told me about that day with tears in her eyes. She was so glad that he got the help he needs so that he would recognize that he is a good person, and he doesn't have to be defined by behaviors that result from untreated ADHD.
Getting treatment as early as possible is so important, so that kids can learn to cope as soon as possible and have fulfilling lives, that aren't ruled by ADHD.
Although ADHD can seem difficult to cope with, there are many treatment options available. You and your child can still have a happy and fulfilling life even with ADHD.
If you are looking to get your child evaluated, your primary care doctor is a good place to start.
Do you have experience parenting a child with ADHD? What has worked for you? Let me know in the comments!
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