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Diagnosing ADHD

“I think having anxiety and having fears is a good thing in that when you face those fears and anxiety, it gives you strength.” – Zooey Deschanel, actress with ADHD

The Need to Know

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common learning challenge that hinders the executive function capabilities, which affects a person’s ability to pay attention, maintain focus, stay organized, and regulate emotions or physical activity. Evaluating ADHD may be difficult, as it exists at different levels of severity and often overlaps with other related conditions. To accurately diagnose ADHD, it’s important to correctly interpret the symptoms. Knowing what tests to administer, what to look for in a specialist, and what to do after the diagnosis are all integral parts of managing life with ADHD.

Identifying the Symptoms

Among the three different subtypes, children with ADHD exhibit several warning signs and symptoms. They may be unable to focus or concentrate for very long on anything, including experiences that children typically enjoy such as storytime or television. Children with ADHD have extreme difficulty sitting still, staying organized, controlling emotions, and understanding other perspectives. Hyperactivity, fidgeting, excessive talking, self-focused behavior, and quick tempers are also representative characteristics of ADHD.

The most important aspect of determining whether or not a child has ADHD is understanding that one or two of these symptoms is not definitively indicative of this condition. Children with ADHD display most, if not all, of these behaviors across a range of different environments.  

ADHD Tests

There is no clear-cut, conclusive test for ADHD. Only doctors and specialists have the authority to issue an official diagnosis. Specialists may utilize uniform assessments to assist with their evaluation, such as the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC), the Child Attention Profile (CAP), or the Vanderbilt Assessment Scale. These tools provide systematic scales and spectrums to help evaluate symptoms and gauge severity. Additionally, several online tests and resources exist to aid parents and teachers with at-home or in-school evaluations. ADHD is best diagnosed by a specialist through a lengthy series of observations and intricate behavioral monitoring sessions.

Finding a Specialist

Though online resources offer an abundance of helpful information, finding an ADHD specialist is always recommended. A good practice is to first get the opinion and recommendation from a primary care doctor. From there, they may refer the child to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or neurologist. These experienced professionals share similar expertise in diagnosing and treating conditions regarding developmental brain functions.

Any parent should explore several considerations and questions when deciding if a particular specialist is right for them. These considerations may include:

  • What training or special certifications they’ve attained
  • How much experience they have with ADHD specifically
  • How many clients with ADHD they’ve treated
  • What the evaluation process involves
  • What costs are associated

It may take several interviews to identify the best fit. It’s also important that the child trusts the specialist to develop a relationship, as it helps to ensure an accurate diagnosis when all members of the group feel most comfortable.

After the Diagnosis

After a child is officially diagnosed with ADHD, there are several necessary steps to follow to avoid obstacles and provide helpful, supportive care. First, becoming familiar with ADHD is imperative to understand what kind of behavior is expected and what behavior is abnormal. The next step is to research any of the prescribed medications and treatment methods to prepare for the upcoming process. Next, it’s important to talk with the child and build awareness of the effects of this condition, making it clear that ADHD does not define them. Lastly, find support. Investigate different schools and learning centers that work with ADHD and consistently achieve high rates of success.

How Hill Learning Center Can Help

We can make a difference. Hill Learning Center is dedicated to transforming students with learning differences and attention challenges into confident, independent learners. Contact us if you’re interested in taking the next step.

Sources: ADDitude Magazine, Healthline, Understood, WebMD

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