Is ADHD On The Rise? Part Three: What Parents Should Keep In Mind

This is the last of three “Q and A” sessions I’m conducting (with myself) to sort through the complex issues raised by the recent suggestion that ADHD is on the rise, and now thought to affect nearly 1 in 10 kids.

If ADHD is more common than ever, does that mean that all kids with ADHD are getting diagnosed?

Not necessarily. Many kids are not properly assessed and diagnosed by appropriate clinicians. Remember, for a child to be diagnosed, that child will either have to be referred for assessment (e.g., by a school) or the parent(s) will have to seek out a professional opinion. There are undoubtedly many children who have symptoms of ADHD, but do not get a full diagnostic screening. So if a parent thinks their child is showing signs of ADHD, or if they are told by a teacher that they should consider that possibility, the most important thing to do is work with either their pediatrician or school to get a referral to a qualified team of professionals who can perform a comprehensive screening.

Why is is “comprehensive screening” necessary? What does that mean?

Just because a child is showing evidence of ADHD, there could be a number of things going on clinically. There could be, for example, an underlying learning disorder, or other medical conditions. Ideally a team of professionals will conduct a complete assessment to rule out other possibilities.

But what if the screening concludes that a child has ADHD? What happens next?

There are lots of things to consider clinically. ADHD comes in a variety of forms — some kids can have, for example, just problems in paying attention without showing hyperactivity. It’s also important to determine the level of severity (it can range from mild to severe) and how much it interferes with behavior at home and in school. The diagnosis itself isn’t the most important thing — the key issue is to figure out the nature of the problem behaviors so a plan can be made to change them.

That means medication, right?

Not necessarily. Although medication helps a number of children, there are also behavioral methods that are effective and should be considered as well. It can depend on the type and severity of symptoms, which is why assessment is so important.

Last question. Aren’t all kids inattentive and hyperactive? Why label kids?

The clinical issue is when kids are much more inattentive and/or hyperactive than most other kids their age and gender — and especially if they are showing problems with school work or functioning at home. The diagnostic procedure is a way of determining if children are showing impairment and could profit from intervention, so that a plan can be made to make their life easier and help them do as well as they can in school.

Read the Previous Posts in the Series “Is ADHD On the Rise?”:

Add a Comment
Back To Red-Hot Parenting
  1. by Amanda

    On September 5, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    To the last sentence I would add, “[help them do as well as they can in school] both academically as well as socially.”. As a teacher I see kids with ADHD having a really hard time making and keeping friends. They often sort of dance to the beat of their own drum, and their lack of attention and follow through in activities makes it difficult for others to really engage with them. As with anything, the most important thing is early detection and intervention to get these kids the extra support they need.

  2. by Richard Rende

    On September 6, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Amanda, I couldn’t agree with you more. Thanks for bringing attention to this important point.

  3. by tienda converse

    On January 10, 2012 at 6:24 am

    I am often to running a blog and i actually respect your content. The article has actually peaks my interest. I’m going to bookmark your site and maintain checking for brand spanking new information.