Diagnosing a child with ADHD takes a team effort.
Childhood ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Even when you see the symptoms in your child, it can be hard to tell if your child really has ADHD, or perhaps is just an energetic kid.
“Every child with ADHD can present very differently, or have a very different severity of it,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, chief medical officer at HealthiNation and pediatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital. “It’s important to work with the parents, the teachers, your psychiatrist, and healthcare provider, to really talk about the symptoms that your child is presenting.”
Making an ADHD Diagnosis
One of the most important criteria for an ADHD diagnosis is that the behavioral symptoms appear in more than one setting—that is, not just in school. To check this, your doctor will give both you and your child’s teacher a survey to give observations about your child’s behavior.
In these surveys, your doctor is looking to see if there are consistent patterns. This helps rule out the possibility that there aren’t other environmental problems going on that could be causing the behavioral symptoms. For example, a poor relationship with their teacher could cause your child to act out at school—but not at home.
Your doctor will also ask if there have been any major life changes for your child, such as a divorce, move, or loss of a loved one. This can cause ADHD-like behaviors temporarily while your child processes the change.
And finally, doctors will want to rule out other disorders. For example, depression and anxiety in children can sometimes be confused with ADHD.
What a Comprehensive Treatment Plan Looks Like
Like any parent, you want the best for your child. That’s why when searching for treatment plans for your child with ADHD, it’s critical to know your options. That way you and your doctor can make the right decision about your child’s care.
Many doctors use what’s called a multimodal treatment approach. “A big part of a comprehensive treatment plan is education—making sure the parents and [the child] understand what ADHD is and how we’re going to treat it,” says Dr. Parikh.
“The two [main] options are medications and behavioral therapy,” says Dr. Parikh. “The data shows that those two in combination are the best ways to treat ADHD.”
The treatment plan may also include some of the following additional interventions, based on what your child needs and what you have access to:
Mental health counseling for your child, you, or the family to address any challenges.
Parent training classes or programs to address your child’s behavior. For example, here are parenting strategies to help raise children with ADHD.
Modifications and supports in school, including 504 Plans, tutoring, and special education programs.
Often more than one intervention is needed to fully treat your child with ADHD.
“One of the key things about parents being educated about ADHD is to know that it’s a team effort and they’re not alone,” says Dr. Parikh. “Talk to your doctor and psychiatrist about anything that you’ve seen that’s going on at home, any changes since they’ve been treated … We all are a team, and we want to make sure we do the best for your child.”
00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:03,488
00:00:03,488 --> 00:00:06,694
Every child with ADHD can
present very differently or
00:00:06,694 --> 00:00:08,910
have very different severity of it.
00:00:08,910 --> 00:00:13,585
And it's important to work with the
parents, the teachers, your psychiatrist,
00:00:13,585 --> 00:00:17,393
and healthcare provider to really
talk about the symptoms that your
00:00:17,393 --> 00:00:18,682
child is presenting.
00:00:18,682 --> 00:00:22,868
00:00:22,868 --> 00:00:26,071
So when you meet your
healthcare professional and or
00:00:26,071 --> 00:00:30,801
usually also a psychiatrist to diagnose
ADHD, you also will be given a survey
00:00:30,801 --> 00:00:35,347
where both the school teachers and
the parents are gonna have to fill out.
00:00:35,347 --> 00:00:40,249
We're talking about your child's symptoms,
because one of the criteria
00:00:40,249 --> 00:00:44,153
they look at is that,
is it happening in more than one area?
00:00:44,153 --> 00:00:45,676
Or is it only happening at school,
or is it only happening at home?
00:00:45,676 --> 00:00:49,942
Is there any changes at home like a
divorce, or different things, an illness,
00:00:49,942 --> 00:00:53,193
or something that maybe the child
is presenting symptoms and
00:00:53,193 --> 00:00:56,208
acting out because of that,
and not necessarily ADHD?
00:00:56,208 --> 00:01:00,255
Sometimes you may also have other
disorders, maybe like depression or
00:01:00,255 --> 00:01:00,869
00:01:00,869 --> 00:01:04,212
It's a big partnership between
the school teachers and
00:01:04,212 --> 00:01:07,838
the parents to really work with
the healthcare providers and
00:01:07,838 --> 00:01:11,834
psychiatrists, to really decided
if your child really has ADHD.
00:01:11,834 --> 00:01:14,973
Treating childhood ADHD
is a comprehensive plan.
00:01:14,973 --> 00:01:18,505
A big part of comprehensive
treatment plan is education,
00:01:18,505 --> 00:01:23,694
making sure the parents and actually this
child themselves understand what ADHD is,
00:01:23,694 --> 00:01:25,584
and how we're gonna treat it.
00:01:25,584 --> 00:01:29,408
The two options are medications and
00:01:29,408 --> 00:01:33,166
And the data shows that those
two in combination are the best
00:01:33,166 --> 00:01:34,455
ways to treat ADHD.
00:01:34,455 --> 00:01:38,361
One of the key things about parents being
educated about ADHD is to know that it's
00:01:38,361 --> 00:01:40,210
a team effort and they're not alone.
00:01:40,210 --> 00:01:41,554
Talk to your doctor and
00:01:41,554 --> 00:01:45,956
psychiatrist about anything that
you've seen that's going on at home.
00:01:45,956 --> 00:01:49,170
Any changes since they've been
treated with medications and
00:01:49,170 --> 00:01:52,875
behavioral therapy, to have that
dialogue because we all are a team and
00:01:52,875 --> 00:01:55,238
wanna make sure we do the best for
00:01:55,238 --> 00:01:59,457
Behavior therapy for children with ADHD. Itasca, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. (Accessed on August 30, 2019 at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/adhd/Pages/Behavior-Therapy-Parent-Training.aspx.)
Parent training and education. CHADD. (Accessed on August 30, 2019 at https://chadd.org/for-parents/parent-training-and-education/.)
Patient education: Treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children (Beyond the Basics). Waltham, MA: UpToDate. (Accessed on August 30, 2019 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-in-children-beyond-the-basics