ADHD is hard to diagnose. Most children are naturally very active and can have short attention spans, so when does that cross the line into actual ADHD? Where should you go for testing and what will that look like? These are some of the most common questions we hear from Seattle parents.
Getting easily distracted, not paying attention, or having trouble sitting still are all potential signs of ADHD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, in children. There are many different signs and symptoms to ADHD, but having issues don't automatically mean a diagnosis of ADHD.
It is common for children to have shorter attention spans and want to move and explore more. But if these issues are more frequent they can cause problems in school. So if you believe that your child is showing some signs of ADHD here are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s Not Your Child’s Fault
Understand that if they do have ADHD that this doesn’t mean they are incompetent or lazy. This can often be associated with those who struggle with ADHD. School can be more challenging for children with ADHD, but this can be addressed with medication and changing behaviors.
Parent teacher conferences can be discouraging if teachers focus on the poor performance or lack of attention. Don’t concentrate on the downside. Look for the silver lining. This can be a helpful insight into your child’s behavior and potential solutions.
So how can you tell if it is just bad behavior or something else like ADHD?
Signs to Look For
There are a couple different symptoms to pay attention to that may indicate ADHD. One is distractibility:
· Does your child have trouble paying attention?
· Is it hard for them to focus on task like homework or chores?
· Do they often lose things?
· Does your child have difficulty listening?
Second is hyperactivity:
· Is your child always talking?
· Do they have trouble sitting still – always fidgeting/squirming?
· Are they impatient? Can’t wait in line or for their turn?
· Is your child always moving and running around?
These signs alone are not enough. Many of them could just be from having too much sugar. But if there is a pattern of behavior with several of these, that could be a good indicator that your child has ADHD.
The next step is to take these concerns to your family physician to get tested
Get Your Child Tested
There is not a specific ADHD test. Instead doctors will take information from several sources, such as parents and teachers, to get a feeling of behavior, understand symptoms, and determine how long these have been displayed. Though diagnosis can be made on children from ages 4 to 18, it can be more difficult in younger children due to their constant development.
- Want more information about testing? Read more about the benefits and process of getting your child tested. http://www.mindfultherapygroup.com/psychological-testing/
Your doctor then will do a physical exam, consult medical history, and potentially take brain scans. These will all help to narrow down the diagnosis for if your child does have ADHD and what type they may have. Many physicians in the US and across the world use the DSM-5, outlined below by the ADHD Institute, for diagnosis.
Overview of the DSM-5TM medical classification system for ADHD
"A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
For children, six or more of the symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level, and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities. Please note: the symptoms are not solely a manifestation of oppositional behavior, defiance, hostility or failure to understand tasks or instructions
For older adolescents and adults (age 17 and older), five or more symptoms are required
· Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms present prior to age 12 years
· Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms present in two or more settings (e.g. at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities)
· Clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, academic or occupational functioning
· Symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, and are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder, substance intoxication or withdrawal)."
Types of ADHD
There are three types of ADHD. Each one presents it’s own challenges and can be treated differently.
First is Inattentive ADHD. This affects your child’s ability to focus and stay organized. They will be easily distracted and have issues with attention. But they are able to sit still and don’t have issues fidgeting.
Second is Hyperactive ADHD. A child with the hyperactive part will have trouble staying still and are constantly on the move. They can, however, pay attention and don’t have as much issue with focus and organization.
Third is Combined ADHD. It is exactly how it sounds, a combination of both Inattentive and Hyperactive. This is the most common type of ADHD.
How Do I Treat This?
Treatment for ADHD is very much dependent on the type and severity of your child’s diagnosis. Each child is unique and each case and treatment will be too. Doctors may suggest specific medication as well as therapy to work on behavior and social skills.
The two types of medication used in treating ADHD are stimulants and non-stimulants. Examples of stimulant medications are Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, and Ritalin. Non-stimulant examples are Intuniv and Strattera.
There are also different dosages and quickness of release to be considered, which must be discussed with your family doctor. It will take some time to get the exact type and amount that is best suited for your child. As with any medication, there can be side effects and these also should always be brought to your doctor’s attention so that any necessary changes can be made.
Many doctors will encourage or suggest therapy alongside medication for your child. Studies have shown that when both medication and behavioral therapy are used, children see much better results than with medication alone.
What behavioral therapy does is builds the child’s confidence and teaches them to be more organized and focused by helping them create structure in their life. This can be a difficult transition, especially if they have been living with ADHD longer. That is why getting children tested and treated earlier can be so beneficial.
Remember, it isn’t because your child wants to be disruptive or inattentive, they may have a disorder that makes sitting still and focusing difficult. Look for the signs and make sure to bring those to your family physician. They will guide you through getting your child tested and finding the right treatment through medication and therapy to help your child with the specific and unique type of ADHD.
Once the treatment has been tailored to them, they can see a world of difference in the ability to focus and stay organized. Schoolwork will be easier to focus on and simple things like conversations become easier to sit down and pay attention to.
This will have a huge impact, not only on their academic and occupational lives down the road, but also with their social lives. So the earlier that these issues are identified and addressed the more benefit that your child will see in the future.
Still have questions about ADHD and what it can mean for your child? We would love to help! Visit one of our three locations in Southcenter, Seattle, or Mountlake Terrace, or contact us online. http://www.mindfultherapygroup.com/contact/