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How to Diagnose ADHD in Your Child

To accurately diagnose ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can be difficult, as the disorder affects children in many different ways. Therefore there is no single test to diagnose ADHD, also referred to as attention deficit disorder (ADD). ADHD is only diagnosed by a doctor after a child has shown several or close to all of the symptoms of the behavior disorder on a regular basis for more than six months.

Having a Doctor Diagnose ADHD

Pediatricians and child psychologists can accurately diagnose your child with ADHD by utilizing the standard guidelines set in place by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, the diagnosis involves the gathering of information across several different settings. Therefore, the doctor will have to seek information from your child's teachers, caregivers and you. When diagnosing ADHD or ADD, a doctor will look at your child's symptoms and compare them to several factors.

Factors to Diagnose ADD or ADHD

  • Severity: How severe is the impact of your child's ADD-like symptoms? A health professional will look at the consequences that these specific symptoms have on your child's school performance, social life, relationships, etc.
  • When did it start? When did you first notice that your child's symptoms started affecting their everyday life? Could this be due to a specific incident or activity?
  • How long has it been? Symptoms must be present for at least six months before your child's doctor or therapist will diagnose ADD or ADHD.
  • Where are the issues? The symptoms of ADHD have to be present in several settings, such as home, school, playtime, etc. If the problem only seems to affect one setting in your child's life then it's likely that ADHD is not the disorder at hand.

In order to properly diagnose ADHD a doctor will perform a physical exam and discuss your child's past medical history with you. This examination allows for the screening of other conditions that could be causing the change in your child's behavior. When diagnosing ADD or ADHD, your doctor will also test for certain conditions that are likely to cause similar symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep issues (Insomnia)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Undetected seizures
  • Sudden life changes, i.e., death of a loved one, parent's divorce, loss of a friend, etc.
  • Lead toxicity

If you know what to expect when your child is being tested for ADHD or ADD, it will make the process that much easier for all parties involved. Remember to remain calm and to comfort your child; overreacting in the situation is likely to increase the symptoms your child is experiencing. Also, be patient, as the process of diagnosing ADHD can take a while. Your child's doctor will want to explore all possible avenues in order to give the correct diagnosis.