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Your pediatrician or health insurer can probably steer you to a qualified specialist. If not, contact your local chapter of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Diagnosing ADHD
To diagnose a child with ADD or ADHD, a doctor must complete several different assessments:
- Behavioral history. Your initial meeting with the doctor — a pediatrician or specialist — should focus on your child's behavioral symptoms. Leave your child at home, and bring along written or verbal descriptions of your child's behavior from current or former teachers, as well as copies of any psychological test results you might have. You'll be asked where and when your child's symptoms occur and when you first noticed them. In addition, the doctor might ask you (and your child's teachers) to complete the Conners' Rating Scale, a questionnaire that helps determine the nature and severity of your child's symptoms. And don't be surprised if the doctor asks about family or marital stresses that could be making your child anxious.
- Medical history and exam. If your answers convince the doctor that your child's symptoms are chronic and pervasive, he or she will probably take a detailed medical history of your child. The goal here is to rule out anxiety, depression, sleep problems, seizure disorders, vision or hearing problems and other medical conditions that can mimic ADHD. Certain medications can also cause symptoms of hyperactivity or distractibility in some children.
- Review of records. The doctor should review relevant school reports and medical records. The doctor will want to have at least one phone conversation with your child's teacher or school psychologist.
Awaiting the diagnosis
Don't expect an answer overnight. The process typically takes a week or two. If your child is indeed diagnosed, you're ready to begin the treatment phase. If your child has been evaluated by a specialist, he or she will likely take the lead in formulating a treatment plan — which should be communicated to your pediatrician and other caregivers.
If your child was evaluated by a psychologist, he or she will probably need to confer with your pediatrician about starting your child on one of the many ADHD medications available. It's also a good idea to sit down with the doctor to discuss other forms of treatment, including behavioral therapy.
Natalie Engler is a freelance health writer in Sudbury, Massachusetts.