We are in the throws of ADHD Awareness Month. So what is this supposed to mean for the ADHD world? First and foremost, the definition: coming from Dr. Ed Hallowell’s website (one of the leading experts on ADHD):

ADHD is a neurological condition that is usually genetically transmitted. It is characterized by distractibility, impulsivity and restlessness or hyperactivity. These symptoms are present from childhood on, and with a much greater intensity than the everyday person, so that they interfere with everyday functioning.

Dr. Hallowell brilliantly describes a person with ADHD: A Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes. I am not sure there is a better description than that where one can visualize what ADHD looks and feels like. He feels that ADHD should be described as a trait rather than a disability and when managed properly can be an asset.

According to the CHADD website, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common behavioral condition affecting 11 percent of school-age children (Viser, et al.,2014). Symptoms continue into adulthood in more than three-quarters of cases (Brown, 2013). ADHD is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

I like how Dr. Hallowell describes ADHD as a trait that can be an asset, but it does take work and getting a diagnosis is important.

Getting a diagnosis for ADHD takes time and effort

To begin, a diagnosis involves the pediatrician, as well as school and parent input. The pediatrician should know what the child is experiencing at school, home and with friends along with outside of school interests. Family history is often included, as if there is history of ADHD in immediate family; then, the possibility of the child having ADHD may be more prominent.

Parents should be expected to fill out questionnaires, checklists and/or ADHD type rating scales (such as the Connors – more info here), along with any teachers who are paramount in your child’s life.

The more information about your child, the better and more accurate the diagnosis will be. Knowing the social history is important. For example, included in this history may be number of moves there have been (really an important factor for many who have lived abroad and often move), illness among family members like grandparents, financial challenges, or other aspects causing anxious behaviors that may mimic ADHD.

Having the doctor conduct a physical exam is important to rule out any physical causes, including vision and hearing screening.

Having ADHD and a specific learning issue often go hand in hand. So, it is often beneficial to have a full educational evaluation that can be done at your child’s school, or perhaps independently. While the school does take some time, an independent evaluation can be costly and may take less time than the school’s evaluation process.

All in all, diagnosing ADHD entails combining several factors: Time, which parents will need to gather information from the school involving the paperwork (these are the questionnaires, checklists, rating scales, etc). A physical exam to rule out any other physical causes, social and family history and a look at Symptom history:

ADHD is looked at on a continuum, based on how many symptoms are present and how difficult those symptoms complicate ones daily life. Simply put, ADHD can present as mild, moderate or severe. If you go to adhdawarenessmonth.org, there you will find a definition of ADHD and the three presentations of ADHD and its characteristics. Again, while you read this information, only a professional can make this diagnosis, only a doctor can prescribe medication.  

And finally, students should have a full educational evaluation in order to see if any learning issues co- exist with the ADHD.