Diagnosing ADHD

ADHD is a topic that has gotten quite a lot of attention recently. With record numbers of children having trouble focusing in school and at home, it's easy to see why so many parents are concerned.

Before schools start back for the new year and while kids are at home with their parents, summer is a good time to learn more about ADHD. Parents can understand what signs to look for, and they can intervene to get their child help before the school year begins.

There are several ways to recognize and diagnose ADHD in kids. Let’s get started with the basics, and then move onto how you can best help your child.

What is ADHD?


Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurobiological disorder with core symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. For some children, not all three of these symptoms exist; one child may only show severe inattention, but not hyperactivity or impulsivity.

Here are a few quick facts about ADHD:

  • 67% of children who have ADHD have another condition paired with it
  • Common disorders that are paired with ADHD are: oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, and mood disorder
  • The diagnosis is reported 2.5 times more frequently in boys than girls
  • It is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions affecting school-aged children

What are the Signs of ADHD?


As mentioned above, there are a few core symptoms that are most closely associated with ADHD. But, you may be wondering, what are clear signs that point to an ADHD diagnosis?

To help diagnose your child as ADHD, your pediatrician will follow the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5). In this manual, there are certain criteria that are listed that indicate a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity.

Children up to the age of 16 must exhibit at least six of the symptoms, for more than six months. The symptoms are as follows:

Symptoms of Inattention:

  • No close attention to details, makes careless mistakes in school or other activities
  • Doesn’t like or avoids tasks that take prolonged mental effort (mostly seen in schoolwork)
  • Can’t hold attention during tasks or play
  • Does not follow through on instructions (won’t finish homework, chores, or other duties)
  • Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to
  • Trouble with organizing tasks
  • Loses important things
  • Easily distracted
  • Often forgetful

Symptoms of Hyperactivity/Impulsivity:

  • Fidgets
  • Can’t sit still, leaves seat
  • On the go constantly
  • Excessive talking
  • Blurts out answers before question is fully posed
  • Runs or climbs in inappropriate settings (or, for older children, is restless)
  • Unable to quietly enjoy leisure activities
  • Trouble waiting to take turns Interrupts or intrudes (in conversations, games, etc.)

Kids can exhibit these signs as young as preschool age, and early intermediation with behavior therapy can prove helpful. With the help of your pediatrician, you can determine what is just a phase or your child’s personality versus a medical condition that needs treatment.

How Do I Know if My Child Has ADHD?


No single test is available to diagnose ADHD. However, a physical examination along with standardized psychological tests can help rule out or narrow down the symptoms your child is experiencing.

Since ADHD is a mental, behavioral disorder, it can be difficult to diagnose without the help of a professional. Your pediatrician can use these psychological tests to either diagnose ADHD or to identify another disorder.

Along with your pediatrician’s help, it is important to reach out to other caretakers – such as your child’s teachers, babysitters, coaches, parents of friends, and more – to have a full scope of how your child acts, reacts, and interacts with others.  

Having a full picture of your child’s mental and physical health can inform your pediatrician and get you closer to a true diagnosis.

What Can I Do To Help My Child with ADHD?


The first and best thing to do is talk to your pediatrician. Only from there can you determine what psychological or behavioral problems your child may have.

If your child is indeed diagnosed with ADHD, there are some things you can do to make life easier for them and those around them. Some ideas include:

  • Encourage exercise
  • Establish routines, especially when it comes to getting a good night of sleep
  • Make time for breaks
  • Encourage your child to wait a moment – whether before speaking, answering, or jumping into an activity
  • Keep your home organized, allowing your child to know where things go
  • Counseling sessions

Along with these ways to help your child, be sure to invest in your own health. Find support groups, counseling, and down time to create a calm, supportive environment around you. Allowing yourself to find calm increases your ability to be patient and optimistic when your child is acting out.

Think Your Child Has ADHD? Let’s Talk.

If you are concerned about your child’s health, let’s talk. At Pediatrics East, our goal is to support the overall health and well-being of your child, from birth to college.

ADHD, while somewhat common, can impact your child’s mental state, school performance, and social life quite a bit. We want to learn as much as we can about your child’s life and symptoms to make the best diagnosis and give the best care possible.

Even if ADHD is not the diagnosis, our skilled pediatricians can help point you to another disorder that may be affecting your child. We want to work together to find a path forward that works for you, your child, and your family.

Call us today to schedule an appointment. We look forward to learning more about your child and finding him or her the right solution.

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Posted by Tim Flatt at 16:34
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