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Getting a diagnosis for ADHD

A child who has trouble focusing, sitting still or completing tasks, chores and homework might sound like a shoo-in case of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but it's important to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician or family medicine provider to rule out other factors. 

Other factors that may cause attention problems

  • Hearing difficulties: Children who are deaf or are hard-of-hearing can appear to have attention problems because they simply can't hear the directions in order to follow them.
  • Low vision: Unsuspected far-sightedness or eye muscle issues will make it difficult for a child to read, appearing like she or he can't concentrate to read. Your pediatrician will make sure your child is seeing and hearing correctly.
  • Sleep issues: Your pediatrician can evaluate for sleep disorders, causing daytime sleepiness or thyroid issues, creating fatigue or restlessness.
  • Allergies: Even allergies and a stuffed-up head can cause focus and memory troubles.

One of the ways to spot a child's learning disability is when he or she has more trouble with reading than with math or the other way around. Learning disabilities can mimic ADHD because your child cannot concentrate on the subject that makes no sense to him or her. 

Who tests for ADHD?

If a medical cause for inattention is ruled out, a psychologist will meet with you and your child. The psychologist will talk with you and your child and assess your child's levels of inattention and hyperactivity through standardized tests, like an IQ test. Sometimes, further testing, like for a learning disability, might be the outcome if your child doesn't meet the criteria for ADHD.

ADHD diagnosis and treatment

The psychologist will make recommendations to ensure your child is getting the help he or she needs to be successful at school and at home. Medication is most commonly recommended and prescribed if your child's school performance is affected by the attention deficit. It may also be used, though less commonly, if social relationships are suffering. There are various medication options—a pill, liquid or even a skin patch—and it can be trial and error to find the right dose for your child depending on his or her needs. Providers adjust medications to assure the lowest possible dose is being used to get the desired results. 

It's important to know that an ADHD diagnosis is rarely made before kindergarten or first grade, and medication is almost never given to a child younger than five or six years old. There are also different types of ADHD that a child might fit into. 

On-going care for ADHD

Follow-up visits are important for you, your child and doctor to stay on top of physical, social and emotion development. We check on factors like normal growth and blood pressure as well as talk about school and social progress.

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