The first time my son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) I wasn’t sure what to think. I knew the condition existed, but I had never really been exposed to it. This blog is all about how to determine if your child may have ADD and then what steps you should take if they do indeed have it. The first step is being informed. So let’s get started!
1. Be informed
You may already be familiar with the terms ADHD, ADD, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but are you aware of the differences between them?
Attention deficit disorders have been around since before World War II. They were first described in medical literature as early as 1902. However, the term “ADHD” didn’t come about until 1980 when it was introduced by Dr. Russell Barkley who published “Hyperactive Children: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment” in 1987. In this book he defined three subtypes of ADHD: hyperactive-impulsive type, inattentive type or combined type (consisting of both). The criteria for diagnosing a child with attention deficit disorder is if they display at least 6 out of 9 of these symptoms listed below.*1
2. Know what ADD is
Knowing what ADD and ADHD are is key to understanding whether your son has either condition.
- ADD: Attention deficit disorder is characterized by difficulty paying attention, organization skills, and hyperactivity.
- ADHD: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the same as ADD but with an addition of impulsivity or restlessness.
If you have a child who seems to have difficulty paying attention in school, it’s important to consider whether he might have ADD or ADHD for several reasons. The first being that there are different treatments available for each of these conditions. Secondly, knowing what type of disorder your child has can help you understand why certain things may be going wrong in their lives more than others—especially since they both appear similar on paper but require very different solutions when treating them (and often times those solutions aren’t easy). Lastly we’ll talk about how some kids suffer both disorders at once!
3. Take an evaluation and get it reviewed by the doctor
The third step is to take an evaluation and get it reviewed by a doctor. This can be done in one of several ways:
- You can do the evaluation yourself, or with the help of a special education teacher, psychologist, psychiatrist or neurologist. This is also called taking an informal assessment or self-assessment.
- You can go through formal testing for ADHD through your school district with help from their staff psychologists and/or psychiatrists (who may also be involved in doing the evaluations). The results are shared with your child’s pediatrician as well as other specialists who look at learning disabilities like autism spectrum disorder and Asperger syndrome.
The fourth step is to get your child diagnosed by a specialist who specializes in diagnosing kids with ADHD; these include pediatricians who specialize in learning disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder and Asperger syndrome (they could also specialize specifically in diagnosing children with ADHD), neurologists who specialize in treating patients that have learning differences related specifically towards attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
4. Watch your child over time to see if behaviors are consistent
- Watch your child over time to see if behaviors are consistent
If you’ve been watching your child over time, it’s likely that you have noticed patterns of behavior. If they tend to be inattentive or impulsive at school but not at home, chances are their ADD is situational and not a true disorder. That said, if the behaviors are consistent across different environments and situations (and especially when performing tasks), then there may be some sort of underlying issue that needs more attention – which could very well turn out to be ADD!
5. Listen to your gut when you try to determine if something is wrong
- Listen to your gut when you try to determine if something is wrong
If you think something’s off, there’s a good chance it is. Your instincts are usually correct—your child might not have ADD, but if you have any reservations about whether or not he does, go with them and ask for help. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD already or been through an assessment that points him in that direction, don’t be afraid to reach out again and seek professional help. You never know how far down the rabbit hole of diagnosis can go until you start digging.
Be informed and take an evaluation of your child.
- Make an appointment with your doctor. Bring up your concerns and ask him or her to refer you to a specialist.
- Get a second opinion from another specialist, if needed. If one doctor says it’s not ADD and another does, then get a professional evaluation (this is what happened with my son)
- There are also many excellent books about diagnosing ADHD that can help you make an informed decision
If you’re worried that your child are struggling in school or at home, then it’s important to get a professional evaluation as soon as possible. If they do have ADD, the sooner they can begin treatment and therapy, the better. And if not? Then you can rest easy knowing that your child is doing well and doesn’t need any intervention from doctors or teachers at this time. With that said though, even if an evaluation reveals no signs of ADD yet doesn’t rule it out for future reference too!