Though your child may have some symptoms that seem like ADHD, it might be something else. That's why you need a doctor to check it out.
Doctors diagnose ADHD in children after a child has shown six or more specific symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity on a regular basis for more than 6 months in more than two settings.
There is no single test for ADHD. Instead, diagnosing is a process that takes several steps and involves gathering a lot of information from multiple sources. You, your child, your child's school, and other caregivers should be involved in assessing your child's behavior.
A health care provider will give your child a checkup and take a medical history to help put your child's behavior in context. They will also ask what symptoms your child has, how long ago those symptoms started, and how the behavior affects your child and the rest of your family.
The doctor will consider how a child's behavior compares with that of other children the same age.
Your child's primary care doctor can determine whether your child has ADHD using standard guidelines developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which says the condition may be diagnosed in children ages 4 to 18 years.
However, it is very difficult to diagnose ADHD in children younger than 5. That's because many preschool children have some of the symptoms seen in ADHD in various situations. Also, children change very rapidly during the preschool years.
In some cases, behavior that looks like ADHD might be caused instead by:
A sudden life change (such as divorce, a death in the family, or moving)
Combined Type (Inattentive/Hyperactive/Impulsive). Children with this type of ADHD show all three symptoms. This is the most common form of ADHD.
Hyperactive/Impulsive Type. Children show both hyperactive and impulsive behavior, but for the most part, they are able to pay attention.
Inattentive Type. Formerly called attention deficit disorder (ADD). These children are not overly active. They do not disrupt the classroom or other activities, so their symptoms might not be noticed.
ADHD Treatment Overview
Treatment plans may include special education programs, psychological intervention, and drug treatment. Learn as much as you can about the options and talk them over with your child's health care provider so you can make the best plan for your child.
Studies show that long-term treatment with a combination of medications and behavioral therapy is much better than just medication treatment, or no specific treatments in managing hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Those kids treated with both ADHD drugs and therapy also had better social skills.