ADHD is a complex condition and is sometimes difficult to diagnose.
There is no single test for ADHD. Doctors diagnose ADHD in children and teens after discussing symptoms at length with the child and parents -- and possibly teachers -- and observing the child's behaviors. The doctor will also gather information about any similar problems that run in the family, and consider all possible causes.
To confirm a diagnosis of ADHD and/or learning differences, a battery of tests may...
Each has different kinds of symptoms, and they change with age.
ADHD begins in childhood and for some people can last a lifetime, but treatments can help.
ADHD in Toddlers and Preschoolers
Little kids are an active and unruly bunch. So how can you tell if one has ADHD? Usually, their unruly behavior is extreme.
These kids are “running, jumping, climbing on everything, they can’t sit still, they talk all the time," says Steven Cuffe, MD. He is chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Jacksonville. "They’re often described as ‘on the go’ or ‘driven by a motor.’”
Russell A. Barkley, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Medical University of South Carolina, describes fidgeting and restless behavior: “They simply can’t concentrate very long on anything,” even a bedtime story.
While you may see the warning signs, the diagnosis usually comes a little later. But a doctor may be able to give you strategies for parenting.
ADHD in Elementary School Kids
Not all children with ADHD are hyperactive, but one that is will still be so when he becomes school-age. Other symptoms will show up, too. He may be unable to focus, and may also have trouble making good decisions and planning for the future. “What you’re seeing is a blossoming of a more and more complex disorder,” says Barkley.
He may have more trouble than other kids his age with:
Letting others talk
Finishing homework or chores
Keeping track of things like homework and books
Also, a child with ADHD can be emotional, says Barkley. If something frustrates her, “you’re going to see that frustration come out.” If you say you might take her to a movie, she may ask about it non-stop. “If you say no, they’re going to blow up.”
Because she may act without thinking things through, your child may be accident-prone.
There is no one test for ADHD. Many kids have some signs, but for an ADHD diagnosis, several signs need to be present for at least 6 months, and they have to be taking a toll on the child’s social and academic activities, says Cuffe.
Once a child is diagnosed with ADHD, you and your doctor will discuss treatment options. They most often include both medication and behavioral therapy. You may need to try different things before you settle on the right treatment.