With the growing number of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses each year, many parents want to know if their children are exhibiting symptoms of ADHD, or if they are simply showing normal childhood behavior. ADHD affects approximately 8% of children between 6 -17 years of age and is one for the commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in the United States. As a parent, it is important to consider evaluating your children for ADHD if you have any concerns about their everyday functioning.
How Do I Know if My Child Has ADHD?
To begin, you must recognize that ADHD is typically separated into three distinct diagnostic categories: inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, or a combination of both. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has outlined specific criteria that must be met for a diagnosis of ADHD to be established. These criteria are outlined below.
Symptoms of inattention include:
- Failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes in schoolwork
- Difficulty maintaining attention during lengthy activities
- Failing to listen when spoken to
- Failing to follow through with instructions or tasks
- Difficulty organizing activities
- Avoiding tasks that require extended mental effort
- Losing items needed to complete tasks
- Easily distracted
- Forgetful during everyday activities
Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity include:
- Fidgeting with hands/feet or squirming when seated
- Getting up from their seat when told to sit still
- Running or climbing in inappropriate situations
- Inability to play quietly
- “On the go” and unable to stay still
- Talking excessively
- Blurting out answers before the question is completed
- Difficulty waiting for his or her turn and waiting in line
- Interrupting the conversations and activities of others
For an ADHD diagnosis to be established, your child must exhibit 6 or more symptoms from either the inattention or hyperactivity criteria lists, or 6 symptoms from both categories for a combination diagnosis. In addition, these symptoms must have persisted for at least 6 months and have a negative impact on social or academic functioning.
Why is an ADHD Evaluation Important?
Though there is not one standard test for ADHD, a clinician can accurately assess your child for ADHD using various methods. Oftentimes, the clinician will use a psychosocial assessment to receive developmental, social, and academic information from caregivers or teachers. This history is reinforced with ADHD rating scales such as the NICHQ Vanderbilt Assessment Scales or the Connors-3. Other continuous performance measures may be used such as the Connors Continuous Performance Test of the Test of Variable of Attention (TOVA). These measures provide additional information about a child’s ability to remain attentive during a tedious task. Most importantly, these measures will help the clinician detect whether your child’s symptoms are causing a negative impact on social or academic performance and determine an appropriate treatment plan.
How is ADHD Treated?
Treatment for ADHD typically requires a multifaceted approach that includes medication management, counseling, social skills groups, and modified academic plans. At LifeStance Health, we offer a variety of resources to help children struggling with symptoms of ADHD. Our caring psychiatric team provides diagnostic evaluations, medication management, and referrals for counseling interventions for ADHD. LifeStance Health also offers social skills groups designed to help children and adolescents develop improved self-awareness and appropriate peer interaction.
If you are concerned that your child is exhibiting symptoms of ADHD, contact us to schedule an evaluation.