The rising rate of ADHD has many parents wondering if the diagnosis is too subjective.
“I think there would probably be some chemical imbalance or something they would need to do further testing - other than making that decision or diagnosis just by looking at the child,” says dad Kris Willing.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a clinical diagnosis based on a collection of symptoms rather than a single test. That opens it up to interpretation. If you wonder whether your child has ADHD, work with a doctor who follows nationally recognized standards set forth by governing pediatric and psychiatric groups.
“A lot of people think they can just spot a child and say ‘oh that child is hyper active’. Meaning that sure it’s an active child, it engages in a lot of gross motor behavior, but that doesn’t mean that child has a disorder,” says Dr. Elena Reyes, clinical psychologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
A key point in making an ADHD diagnosis is that symptoms must be present in more than one setting. Which is why the evaluation includes observations from parents, caregivers and teachers.
“When we actually do an evaluation for ADHD we really try to do a thorough evaluation. So what you’re doing is not only observing the child, you’re getting information from the parents but you’re also getting information from the teacher. Because one of the things we know the demand characteristics in the classroom are very different than for example the dinner table or watching TV,” says Reyes.
A psychologist, pediatrician or neurologist will rate a child’s behavior compared to peers. Symptoms to look out for are: constant motion, fidgeting, distractedness and inability to finish tasks. Evaluations should wait until age seven. And remember, ADHD isn’t a blanket for every bothersome behavior.
“It may just be a cause of today’s technology- with kids being in front of iPad’s and iPhones, tablets, whatever,” says Willing.