So, you have seen them; the list of signs and symptoms. Maybe you had a teacher mention that it might be worth looking into. You have dealt with the frustration yourself, and helplessly watched as your child struggles through what should be seemingly simple tasks, and impulsively exposes to the world a lack of filter between thoughts and spoken words.
You have thought about getting him or her in to see someone because…. Well… Let’s face it. All the signs are pointing to ADHD. If you are still in that “thinking about it” stage, let me give you five things to consider as you wonder what the future holds.
ADHD is Not the End
Getting a diagnosis of ADHD is not a death sentence and at doesn’t mean that your child is going to suffer or struggle the rest of his/her life. In fact it could mean quite the opposite. With proper treatment, management, and support, individuals with ADHD can be amazingly successful. Understanding what the differences are in how your child learns and takes in the world and excepting who they are as OK will help set them up to achieve whatever goals they desire in life. Trying to pretend that ADHD isn’t there or being afraid of the diagnosis is what will potentially cause many struggles through school, relationships, and adulthood.
Get Information from a Good Source, and More than One Source
If you are questioning if your child might have ADHD, it is an excellent idea to do some homework. The internet can be a cornucopia of valuable information. However, use caution and common sense. I strongly recommend getting information from more than one source, and make sure your sources are reputable. With all the good information that is out there on ADHD, there is also some very poor, out dated, and to be blunt… ignorant… information that is available. I recommend going to places like Special-Ism.com. Other valuable resources are:
This list is not all-inclusive, and I don’t personally endorse any one of them. They are just some good places to get you started.
Get a Thorough Examination
ADHD is a complex disorder and as with any cognitive disorder, health, or mental health assessment, it requires a thorough exam by a knowledgeable professional. While sometimes primary care physicians make an ADHD diagnosis and prescribe medications, this is not a route I recommend. A general practitioner may be a great place to start with some questions and to get a good physical exam (Some health related issues can also cause symptoms similar to ADHD), but from there a referral to a specialist should be the next move.
A specialist could be a Psychiatrist, Pediatric Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor, or may even have other titles. Each one has a unique scope of practice which may vary by region. Some can prescribe medications, but don’t do therapy. Some don’t prescribe medications, focus on behavior therapy, and refer patients to an M.D or Psychiatrist for medication if they feel it is needed. Check the qualifications of the provider you are considering and don’t be afraid to ask how many patients with ADHD they treat, and what their outcomes are. If they don’t see many, or are unwilling to answer your questions, move on. Your insurance provider may be able to give you recommendations. Organizations like CHADD (listed above) may be helpful in finding qualified professionals in your area.
A specialist should take their time with the assessment. An initial consultation could take from 45 to 90 minutes. Like I pointed out above, ADHD is complex. There is no blood test, X-ray, or machine that can make the diagnosis. It requires a lot of questions about the symptoms and your child’s history of home life, how he/she may be doing in school now compared to in the past, and possibly some family medical history. Be patient with the process, and allow your doctor to be thorough, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It should take more than one appointment to get a final diagnosis. It could take two weeks or even a month for a full assessment to be completed.
Treatment Options and Plans
When it comes to treating ADHD, it is most common for Psychiatrists to prescribe medication. There are a lot of different opinions about ADHD medication and it is really important for you to do some research on facts and form your own opinion. For many, medication is extremely helpful and is first line in the management plan. Keep in mind that at times medications don’t help some people. It is important to communicate with your doctor and report the effect of any medication being used.
Additional or alternative ways to manage ADHD may be done through diet, physical exercise, and dietary supplements. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other therapies are often used to help develop emotional regulation, social skills, and in developing other areas as well. Hiring an ADHD Coach can be helpful in developing new habits, creating accountability, understanding learning styles, support and education in the management process. Research has also identified the benefits of yoga and mindfulness meditation for hyperactivity, inattention, and emotional regulation. Any and all of these options could be a part of your child’s treatment plan or team.
Like with any medical diagnosis, taking the time to reevaluate the treatment plan is a smart idea. Not everything is going to change or get better over night, so it is important to keep track and record what is improving, what’s not improving, and what, if any, has gotten worse. Having this information will help your provider improve on the diagnosis and treatment plan.
Evaluating the management of your child’s ADHD is an ongoing process that should be repeated consistently. Even with treatment, ADHD and similar disorders are very complex and the symptoms and what triggers symptoms can change with age, stress, environment, health, and diet to name a few. Helping your child to develop self-awareness around how their symptoms present themselves in a non-judgmental fashion will promote their own ability to evaluate and self manage.
In closing I would just like to add that with proper support, acceptance, and management, your child can be successful being who they are. Having ADHD can be a challenge – that when supported and managed often develops creativity and ingenuity through out-of-the-box thinking that people who have impacted the world are known for.