ADHD Diagnosis: 3 Things You Need to Know
How does ADHD Diagnosis help my child?
It seems everyone is talking about ADHD and ADHD Diagnosis these days. With such increase in awareness, many parents start to wonder whether their own child may have a touch of ADHD.
If your child seems unable to keep up with his or her peers, or seems to get in trouble more than others then you may have concerns about ADHD and wonder what you should do. Treat it like every other challenge in parenting:
1- Get the information you need
2- Make sure you understand it
3- Become empowered to make the best choices for your child
This article will help you get started with: “How is ADHD diagnosed?” and “What if ADHD is diagnosed?”
1- Get the information you need : Choosing a doctor and understanding how ADHD is diagnosed.
Choosing a doctor for ADHD diagnosis.
There’s no single test that will tell you whether your child has ADHD. In fact, the diagnosis often begins with a parent or teacher recognizing that the problems are beyond the child’s ability to control. After that moment of recognition, prompt diagnosis by a specialist is critical.
You should seek a diagnosis from a specialist with significant experience in ADHD. Without proper diagnosis and intervention, the child can be branded or self-identify with labels such as “lazy”, “irresponsible”, or worse.
Before making an appointment, do your research! Is the doctor or clinician specialized in diagnosing ADHD and other related conditions? Do they work regularly with schools to ensure your child’s success?
Diagnosis can take several hours of test taking, talking, and analysis so it’s unlikely that your general practitioner is equipped with the right tools and resources. You will probably be referred to a specialist but you shouldn’t feel obligated to go to any particular referral. You need to find a professional trained in diagnosing ADHD because they will also screen for other related issues that may be involved. Even if the school has done their own diagnosis, having an outside diagnosis will help during the IEP or 504 plan process.
Dr. Dohrenwend at Psy360 specializes in ADHD diagnosis. Her comprehensive approach considers each individual’s primary concerns, unique circumstances, and relevant medical, academic and social/emotional history. You may wish to contact your local chapter of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) for additional information.
How ADHD Is Diagnosed
In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, a patient must demonstrate at least six of the symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. In addition, these symptoms must have persisted for at least 6 months with a negative impact on the child’s social and academic activities. Doctors must conduct thorough clinical interviews or issue detailed surveys for parents and teachers to complete. Additional screening tests are needed to identify or rule out other conditions such as anxiety, autism, and mood disorders. A standardized ADHD rating scale is used for analysis and diagnosis.
The comprehensive approach for ADHD diagnosis used by Dr. Dohrenwend includes computer-based measures, paper and pencil tests, parent surveys and teacher surveys, and in-office interviews. Her standardized computer-based measures look at reaction time, sustained attention and vigilance in both auditory and visual conditions.
2- Make sure you understand the information
Understanding your Child’s ADHD Diagnosis and Understanding ADHD treatments
The more you know, the more you can help. While you’re waiting through the diagnostic process, take the opportunity to understand even more. Your doctor may even have some initial feedback to help guide your thoughts or questions. CHADD is a great online resource for information and support.
Try learning about what your child is experiencing. You already have experience with how ADHD is affecting family members, teachers, and friends but how much do you understand about how ADHD can affect the daily life of someone living with it? Invite your child to help you understand what it’s like in their world.
Learn more about how you can help your child navigate life with ADHD. Important talking points include: how ADHD may affect them in social situations and how to self-advocate in school and elsewhere.
Start to research the process for implementing a 504 plan or IEP. Reach out to the student counselor for guidance on the process at your school. When the time comes, the counselor, teachers, and the doctor will work together with you and your child to put in place the appropriate accommodations, but it’s always helpful to familiarize yourself with the actual process so you can be prepared.
Find out about recommended treatments and therapies. There are many approved therapies and medications available and just as many personal opinions about which ones are effective. It’s informative to learn about how people decide what treatment path to try and what they eventually choose. Keep in mind that ADHD is not a one size fits all condition so treatments are nearly always custom fit and regularly tweaked’ for best results.
3- Become empowered to make the best choices for your child : Give yourself a break and then Plan for success.
First, give yourself and your child a break. After years of frustrating, even painful situations, you no longer need to feel hopeless about being able to change. Let them know that ADHD doesn’t define who they are and many successful people have ADHD.
Next, plan for success. It is important to keep in mind that a diagnosis is not a sentence of hardship, it is actually the first step in the path of bringing relief. A parent can end their speculating and start planning for success.
Next, what are some steps to plan for success?
- Talk to your child’s doctor about treatment options. These may include ADHD medications, behavior therapy or social skills groups. Remember there is no ‘one size fits all’ treatment plan and you will probably have several options available to you.
- Make sure your doctor is accessible since you’ll need to talk often as you work to find the right medication dosage or other therapeutic approaches.
- Invite your child to be a part of the discussion of expectations and pros and cons of any treatments. They need to know what they can expect to experience in different treatments and that you and the doctor want to know how they’re feeling every step of the way. Additionally, they will learn to explain their situation in terms others can understand.
- Talk to your doctor about accommodations at school and home and strategies for social settings. Your child needs a strong advocate to get the most appropriate support and services put in place. You should feel comfortable proceeding as a team; parent, doctor, child, and teacher/counselor. Communicate regularly with your child’s teachers and specialists about whether supports and services are working.
- Teach your child to self-advocate. This is usually part of any treatment plan you need to help reinforce it whenever you see an opportunity. Your doctor can help with some of the ways your child can ask for help when they really need it. Self-advocacy is a skill that offers benefits for a lifetime.
You’re not alone in parenting a child with ADHD. Some parents find it helpful to connect with other parents in the community. Visit CHADD to find local ADHD support groups and other local connections for parents like yourself. Contact Dr. Dohrenwend at Psyc360 to talk about your concerns and schedule a consultation to discuss ADHD diagnosis.