Tuesday, March 2, 2010
A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about her son. He was having some behavioral problems in the classroom and she suspected he had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). She mentioned this to the pediatrician at their next visit and walked away from the doctor’s office with a prescription for a stimulant. Just.like.that. Okay, that? Is a problem. A big one. For so many reasons.
First of all, there are a good number of medical conditions that mimic ADHD, some of which can be conclusively diagnosed via lab and other tests. Conditions such as: diabetes, thyroid disorders, lead poisoning, anemia, vision disorders, hearing disorders, and many others. When a child is suspected of having ADHD, all possibilities should be checked out. Not only is it dangerous to medicate a child without ruling out other conditions, it’s frankly, irresponsible. Parents must be strong advocates for their children and need to spend a good deal of time educating themselves.
After ruling out other medical disorders, there are a series of tests that can help figure out whether or not a child (or adult) has ADHD. The process is called Psycho-Educational testing and should be conducted by a doctor who is experienced. It makes all the difference. This testing may consist of teacher and parent questionnaires, IQ testing, various tests to measure memory function, attention, focus, and other tests that measure how the child learns.
The process which a family can go through to arrive at a diagnosis of ADHD can take months – perhaps even a year. Usually, when we suspect something is not right with our children, we want to know as soon as possible so we can begin treatment. The road to ADHD diagnosis is different and certainly one that you don’t want to speed through. If you suspect your child may have the condition, start by talking to the pediatrician about it. If a prescription is offered that same day, it’s time to see a different pediatrician.
Also, please know that medication is not the only choice and really shouldn’t be the first line of action to take. Treatments such as behavior modification, individual or family therapy, and social skills groups can be very helpful. As can dietary changes and supplements.
There is so much to learn about ADHD, it can be overwhelming. These are some good places to start:
There are countless books about ADHD for parents and educators, but it’s slim pickin' for kids. Here are a couple of good ones: