A teacher, preschool teacher, friend or relative has suggested to you that your child has ADHD. What does that mean to you, your child, your family and your future? One thing it does not mean is that your child will not be a success in life. Numerous, successful individuals have ADHD. I personally know successful doctors, lawyers, business people, artists, therapists–you name it. What it does mean is that your child might have a neurological disorder that will affect how he or she learns and reacts to the environment.
As discussed in the previous article, because a professional suggests your child has ADHD, does not make it so. ADHD is classified as a persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity. These patterns take into account the developmental stage of the individual being diagnosed in comparison to others at the same developmental stage. For many this is just professional gobbely–gook. This why it is imperative that your child receive a “solid diagnosis’ by a professional.
Many of the criteria for diagnosis, as discussed in the previous article, can be attributed to other factors. I suggest, with this disorder, and most psychiatric disorders, that a person first begin with a medical exam. In the case of a child, it would be a pediatrician or family doctor. Hopefully a medical professional who is already familiar with your child.
Be prepared to tell the doctor how much sleep your child has the opportunity to receive. By this I mean what is his normal bedtime. A child should have the opportunity (depending on age) to get a minimum of 9 hours sleep (although the exact amount seems to vary from doctor to doctor and study to study). Certainly, one should not be putting their child to bed at midnight expecting him to function at his best getting up at 6:30 Am. How your child sleeps, may become important. For instance, if he goes to bed at 8:00, but does not fall asleep until midnight, this would likely not be called a normal sleeping pattern. What does you child eat and when? Does he have regularly scheduled meals? How much caffeine and refined sugar does he eat. If your doctor does not ask these questions she may assume that you know what is “normal” in her eyes and not ask, so I suggest you volunteer some information.
I always suggest when anyone goes to the doctor for any reason, they bring a pad and pen. This is to insure that you ask all the questions you have, and that you can write down what the doctor tells you, so you do not forget or can relate it back to a spouse or teacher etc. later. A doctor will likely ask for some family history and developmental history. Generally, laboratory tests or neurological tests will not be taken unless the doctor suspects an underlying cause for the symptoms such as lead exposure.
If the physician feels that your child, may in fact have ADHD, at some point during the evaluation period, the physician may refer your child on to a specialist. Either way, the standard in diagnosis, generally (we can only speak in generalities) is for the professional to request a parent to complete a behavior rating scale, as well as the teacher or preschool teacher if possible. These recommendation/guidelines are the standard that the AACAP (the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry), Published in 2007.
If as a parent you are comparing your child to another child who has ADHD, you may be comparing apples to oranges. ADHD has a number of criteria that are somewhat “mixed and matched” but all indicative of the disorder. Your child may not behaviorally represent himself as another child does with the same disorder. The most important point in getting a “proper diagnosis” for your child is for him to get treatment so he can live to his full potential and not be labeled as “lazy,”” irresponsible,” “oppositional” or “willful.” I have worked with many children with ADHD, who are in fact “gifted,” but could not sustain the concentration to be successful in school and activities until they were successfully diagnosed and treated.
Whether or not your child is sent to an actual psychiatrist for his treatment is not a given. However, my personal recommendation is that if your child does have ADHD, that the parent with the child seek a therapist. My rational for this is to give the parents the education about the disorder and how their child fits into the puzzle of ADHD, so they may help their child cope with their differences and how they may understand how to respond to their child’s behavior. For the child it is important so he know he is simply “different” from others and with that difference will come some “gifts” that others may not readily possess. A child with ADHD, will be misunderstood by some. He needs to know that he is understood by his parents, therapist etc. This likely will be vital to raising a child with a healthy self-esteem.
A good place to start to find a Mental Health Professional to work with your child and family is to ask your doctor for a referral or contact one of the Community Mental health Centers in the Wichita area. Comcare of Sedgwick County at 316-660-7600 or www.sedgwickcounty.org, Methodist Youthville at 316-264-8317 or www.youthville.org. Prarie View at 316-284-6439 or www.pvi.org/wichita-east-locations. There are many competent Mental Health Professionals in the Wichita Area. These centers were chosen solely because they are Community Mental Health Centers and receive some funding from the counties which they serve.
For further information, comments or topics, Cathy may be contacted at this site or at [email protected] or http://cathywalkerlmsw.blogspot.com. Questions or comments will be kept confidential if requested. All correspondence will be answered within 7 days.
The next part in this series will discuss the “treatment” for ADHD.