If your child has ADD/ADHD, we can help explain your options
Here at Westchester Health Pediatrics, an issue that comes up a lot in our practice is whether or not a child has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), what that means, and what to do about it. (The term ADD — Attention Deficit Disorder— is the outdated way to refer to this condition.)
When a child is not doing well in school, finds it hard to sit still, and/or seems to have trouble concentrating, it’s understandable that parents become concerned. Rest assured, no matter the diagnosis, we’re here with you every step of the way.
If we feel your child might have ADHD, we will do a Vanderbilt screening to determine if this is in fact the case and if he/she should see a specialist. If so, we can refer your child to a psychologist or neurologist, who can recommend medication.
No matter the course of treatment or therapy, we will guide you through the entire process, including regular follow-up visits to see how your child is doing. Always, our #1 goal is to do whatever we can to help your child have a happy, healthy life.
At what age should you have your child evaluated for ADHD?
Most experts agree that it’s hard to be sure whether a child has ADHD until 6 or 7 years old. This is because many typical ADHD behaviors, such as a short attention span and acting impulsively, can be normal in preschoolers and kindergartners. However, if you feel your child is showing signs of ADHD which are keeping him from learning,please don’t hesitate to ask us to have him/her evaluated. While medication is rarely appropriate for children under 6, certain behavior modification techniques can help a great deal at any age.
What does an ADHD evaluation involve?
Evaluating a child for ADHD is not an exact science. Many children of all ages have trouble paying attention, but that doesn’t mean they have a disorder. Depression, anxiety, and learning disabilities can all be mistaken for ADHD. Or in some cases, a child may actually be suffering from both ADHD and depression or a learning disability (such as a speech and language delay). About a third of all children with ADHD have some kind of coexisting problem.
An evaluation for ADHD usually includes:
- A thorough personal, family, and medical history. ADHD tends to run in families and it’s common for a brother or sister to have the disorder, or for parents to have symptoms even though they’ve never been diagnosed. For this reason, your pediatrician will ask you a lot of questions about your child’s and your family’s health history. He/she will also want to find out how long your child has been having ADHD symptoms (should be for longer than 6 months) and whether he/she is having them in more than one setting, such as at school and home.
- Interview with the patient. Often, kids will speak more freely when their parents are not in the room. To accurately try to determine the presence (or absence) of ADHD, your pediatrician may ask your child age-appropriate questions without you present, such as, “What’s your favorite subject in school? Your least favorite? Why?”
- Interview with the parents. Your pediatrician will also want to give you ample time, without your child, to talk about your questions, concerns and frustrations with your child, such as short attention span, failure to follow through on homework or chores, non-stop activity or frequently losing his/her temper. Also, you might be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your child’s abilities and symptoms.
- Interview with the teacher. If your child is in school, your pediatrician may want to speak with his/her teacher. Does your child have trouble waiting his/her turn, seems overly fidgety or restless, is easily distracted, or has a hard time following directions?
- Physical examination. Your pediatrician will give your child a thorough physical exam, if his/her current one is out of date, to rule out any health issues that could be causing ADHD-like symptoms, such as vision or hearing problems.
- Treatment options and follow-up. In addition to medication (if warranted), treatment options may include behavior therapy (changing your child’s environment to help improve behavior), working with you, the parents, to give you skills to deal with your child’s behavior, changes in the school environment, and a number of other alternative treatments. Your pediatrician will also want to see you and your child for follow-up visits to check on his/her progress.
To learn more about ADHD
To read American Academy of Pediatrics articles on causes of ADHD, behavioral side effects of medication, common symptoms of hyperactivity and more, please click here.