What Type of Doctor Should My Child See for ADHD?

When you find out your child has ADHD, you can turn to a team of pros who can get him the right treatment. Each one plays a different role that helps your kid improve his behavior at school and home.

There's no one-size fits all remedy if your boy or girl doesn't stay focused, can't seem to sit still, or tends to be impulsive. But a group of specialists will use behavior therapy, medicine, or a combo to let your child put his best foot forward.

Pediatrician

The same doctor that takes care of your child's overall health can treat his ADHD, too. He'll map out an action plan that's based on guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. If your child is 4 to 5 years old, that will likely mean behavior therapy. If he's 6 or older, medicine will also be part of it.

Since other conditions sometimes tag along with ADHD, your pediatrician may also test your child for things like anxiety, depression, and learning disorders such as dyslexia.

Psychologist

He'll give your child tools to manage some of his behavior and emotional problems. He'll show him ways to control angry outbursts, for instance, or stay focused in the classroom. He may also teach your child social skills, like how to wait his turn, share toys, ask for help, or respond to teasing. A psychologist can also come up with a plan to help make the child's life a bit easier in school.

A psychologist will likely use one of these types of treatment:

Behavioral therapy. The goal is to help your child change some of the ways he acts. It might be helpful for some practical everyday things like trouble finishing schoolwork. Or the psychologist can show him how to work through emotionally tough events.

This kind of therapy can also teach your child to monitor his behavior. He'll learn how to praise himself or give himself rewards when he controls his anger or thinks before acting.

Cognitive behavioral therapy. It uses what your child's psychologist may call "mindfulness" techniques. To help your child improve his focus and concentration, he'll find out how to become aware and more accepting of his own thoughts and feelings.

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Psychiatrist

He can prescribe and manage your kid's medication. Your pediatrician can do the same, of course, but a psychiatrist has the expertise to closely monitor the effects of different drugs.

A psychiatrist can also help if your child has some other conditions that sometimes go along with ADHD, such as anxiety, mood disorders, seizures, and sleep problems.

Occupational Therapist

Does your child have trouble with everyday stuff like organizing his backpack or getting from one class to another on time? An occupational therapist can help. He'll evaluate your child at home and school to figure out how his ADHD affects his ability to keep up with things like assignments and regular family life. Then he'll work with your kid to help him get organized and manage his time better.

School Support Team

If ADHD gets in the way of your child's ability to learn, he may qualify for special accommodations under a law known as "Section 504." His teachers and other members of the school staff can help set up an agenda called a "504 plan." It will outline adjustments to the lesson plans for your child, specialized teaching techniques, behavior management methods, and beefed-up parent/teacher collaboration.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on April 22, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:
CDC: "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)."
Felt, B. American Family Physician, October 2014.
Wolraich, M. Pediatrics, November 2011.
National Institute of Mental Health: "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder."
Child Mind Institute: "Pediatricians and ADHD."
The American Occupational Therapy Association: "ADHD."
U.S. Department of Education: "Identifying and Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder."

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