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The ADHD journey inevitably begins with the "a-ha" moment, when it dawns on you that your child's problems might be caused by ADD, ADHD or another biological-based disorder. For some parents, this moment comes when a teacher calls to say that their child is disruptive in class or falling behind academically. For others, it comes after they read an article about ADHD — or hear that another child at school has been diagnosed with it. Whatever triggers your "a-ha" moment, seek help at once. But don't panic— with appropriate treatment, ADHD children do well.
There's no definitive diagnostic test for ADHD — no blood analysis, no brain scan, no genetic screen — so it's not easy to tell whether a child has the disorder. And doctors vary in their abilities to diagnose and treat ADHD, so it's easy to miss getting the help your child needs.
The good news is that, if you take matters step by step, as outlined below, you can avoid the pitfalls and make it to a successful diagnosis more smoothly than you might have imagined possible.
Consulting the doctor
"Most pediatricians are usually the only medical professional you need," says Larry Silver, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C.
Pediatricians, on the other hand, tend to be conservative when it comes to acknowledging behavioral disorders, so trust your instincts and beware the brush-off — when parents suspect their child has a behavioral problem, they are usually right. If your concerns are dismissed out of hand, do not assume that the doctor knows best. Find another doctor.
"Ask how many other cases of ADHD the doctor has treated, and what the plans and outcomes were," says Russell Barkley, PhD, research professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. If the doctor has handled only a few cases, you might be better off going to a developmental pediatrician, a child psychiatrist or another specialist who has significant experience with ADHD.