Has your child's teacher let you know that they think your child has ADHD?
Teachers are often the first ones to recognize or suspect ADHD in children. That's because ADHD symptoms typically affect school performance or disrupt the rest of the class. Also, teachers are with children for most of the day and for months out of the year.
Since teachers work with many different children, they also come to know how students typically behave in classroom situations requiring concentration and self-control. So when they notice something outside the norm, they may speak with the school psychologist or the parents about their concerns.
But teachers can't diagnose ADHD. They can tell you what they've noticed, but after that, you would need to get a professional to evaluate your child to see if they have ADHD or if something else is going on.
There is no one test for ADHD. Instead, the ADHD diagnosis is based on observations of a child's behavior in multiple settings. The teacher, sometimes past teachers, will play a key role in the process. The professional who makes the diagnosis is usually a specially trained doctor (a psychiatrist or pediatrician), psychologist, counselor, or social worker. They will ask you and your child's teachers to rate their observations of your child's behavior on standardized evaluation or rating scales.
ADHD Treatment: Coordinating With the School
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, you'll need to work closely with your child's school.
The school nurse may play a role in dispensing ADHD medications and monitoring for side effects. Your child's teacher will be important in carrying out the behavioral part of a treatment plan and in communicating about the effectiveness of medications.
As a parent, you'll need to keep open the lines of communication with the teacher to ensure a consistent system of incentives and discipline between school and home.
For example, a younger child's teacher may make a checklist and reward the child with a star or smiley face each time they complete a certain number of items on the list.
You may have a similar system at home or provide a bigger reward -- such as a special dinner, a family movie night, or an extra hour of TV or computer time -- when your child gets a certain number of stars or smiley faces.
Getting Support for Yourself if Your Child Has ADHD
Your child's teacher can be a good supporter and resource, but you may want more help dealing with the challenges and emotions of parenting a child with ADHD, or with concerns about medications or other issues.
Read and learn as much as you can about ADHD and its treatment. Other resources include your child's doctor or other professional who diagnosed ADHD, and other parents of children with ADHD.
A national nonprofit organization called Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) also has resources, including support groups for families. The organization's web site lists support groups in your area, and gives information on how to start a group.