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ADHD in Children Health Center

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When to Call the Doctor About ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD continued...

For an ADHD diagnosis:

  • A child must display symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, in various combinations for at least six months.
  • The symptoms need to be disruptive and developmentally inappropriate.
  • At least some of the symptoms need to have appeared before age 12.
  • The symptoms need to cause impairment in at least two settings in the child's life, for example school, work, home, or relationships with family and peers.

For a more detailed and comprehensive analysis of your child's behavior, it's important to talk to your child's pediatrician or health care provider. Currently, ADHD assessments are not recommended for children under 6 years of age. Research on preschoolers is being done to learn more about early screening for children at risk of ADHD. If your preschooler displays signs of ADHD, talk to your health care provider. Your doctor may advise you to observe and track your child's symptoms over time.

If I suspect my child has ADHD, where do I go for help?

If your child has difficulty getting along with peers, problems listening or paying attention to adults, is easily distracted, and does not follow through on daily tasks, talk to your doctor about ADHD.

Currently, several types of health care providers diagnose and treat individuals with ADHD. Psychiatrists, neurologists, developmental and behavioral pediatricians, and pediatric or family physicians are able to diagnose children with ADHD. They can also prescribe medication.

Psychologists and other mental health professionals can assist in the diagnosis and non-medication- treatment of ADHD. For example, they can help your child with behavioral therapy or social skills training. Mental health professionals also provide family therapy. There are also support groups for people with ADHD as well as family members.

Should I give my child medication for ADHD?

Having their child take medication can be a difficult decision for parents. In a large study of children with ADHD sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers compared four different treatment options. The children were divided into four groups, and all received different forms of treatment for over a year.

The two groups that received medication treatment did better compared to those who did not. The group that received medication and intense behavioral intervention had the best results in several areas. Those areas included social skills, academics, and family relationships.

The CDC encourages parents of children with serious symptoms of ADHD to seek professional advice. Unfortunately, there is no one single cure for ADHD. Individuals must work with their healthcare providers to customize the treatment that will work best for them.

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