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.
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