Diagnosing ADHD: Teacher Input Overlooked?

Parents of Children Diagnosed With ADHD Sound Off in Survey

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 22, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 21, 2009 -- Pediatricians are most often involved in the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, but many do not get recommended input from teachers before rendering a diagnosis, Consumer Reports says in a parent survey about their children with ADHD.

The survey of parents of 934 children diagnosed with ADHD revealed:

  • 69% of diagnoses of ADHD involved pediatricians, compared with 45% by a child psychiatrist, 26% by a child psychologist, 24% by a school psychologist, and 16% by master’s degree level experts in learning disabilities.
  • 56% of children were prescribed medication immediately after diagnosis.
  • Nearly a third of parents (32%) said teachers did not complete questionnaires about their children.
  • Professionals did not interview teachers in 44% of the cases and didn’t observe the child in a classroom 53% of the time. Consumer Reports says such omissions “undermine the goal that most parents have in seeking help in the first place.”
  • Only 70% of children receiving an ADHD diagnosis had a physical exam, and only 52% were given hearing tests.

The survey also found that:

  • 45% of parents felt more confident about their child’s future after a diagnosis, but 24% were “disheartened” and more worried afterward.
  • 65% of parents said after diagnosis they were left without a clear plan for managing their child’s condition, more than half lacked a clear understanding of their youngster’s strengths and weaknesses, and only 42% said they felt they had a professional with whom they could talk about future concerns.
  • 17% of parents were not convinced after diagnosis that their child really had ADHD.

Many symptoms of ADHD occur with other conditions, and children who are diagnosed may have additional disorders, Consumer Reports says. Only 32% of the study population had ADHD alone, 29% had ADHD plus oppositional defiant disorder and/or conduct disorder, 14% had ADHD plus anxiety or depression, and 25% had all three disorders.

When asked what parents would tell another parent:

  • 46% reported to be prepared for the time needed for parent-teacher discussions about your child’s classroom work and behavior.
  • 38% reported to be prepared for the time needed for meetings with doctors and specialists.
  • 28% reported to be prepared that the attention given to your child with ADHD may negatively impact other relationships within your household.
  • 24% recommended to seek out support groups and other ADHD resources.