At What Age Should You Have Your Child Evaluated For ADHD?

Here at Westchester Health, a lot of our parents want to know whether or not their child has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), what it means, and what to do about it. When a child is not doing well in school, finds it hard to sit still, is constantly restless and/or seems to have trouble concentrating, it’s understandable that parents become concerned.

Researchers say that 3-10% of all children in the U.S. have ADHD. Most often, the condition is recognized when a child starts school but for many, the signs and symptoms can appear at a younger age. Most experts agree that it’s hard to be sure whether a child has ADHD until he/she is 6 or 7 years old.

Lauren Adler_02R WEB72

Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

Evaluating a child for ADHD is not an exact science

Many children of all ages have trouble paying attention, but that doesn’t mean they have a disorder. Depression, anxiety, and learning disabilities can all be mistaken for ADHD. In some cases, a child may actually be suffering from both ADHD and depression, or ADHD and a learning disability (such as a speech and language delay).

At Westchester Health, if we feel your child might have ADHD, we will do a Vanderbilt screening (a psychological assessment tool for ADHD). If the results of the testing indicate that your child does have ADHD, we can refer your child to a psychologist or neurologist who can recommend medication.

An ADHD evaluation typically includes:

  • A thorough personal, family, and medical history. ADHD tends to run in families and it’s common for a brother or sister to have the disorder, or for parents to have symptoms even though they’ve never been diagnosed. For this reason, we will ask you a lot of questions about your child’s and your family’s health history, how long your child has been having ADHD symptoms (should be longer than 6 months) and whether he/she is having them in more than one setting, such as at school and home.
  • Interview with the patient. Often, kids will speak more freely when their parents are not in the room. To accurately determine the presence (or absence) of ADHD, we may ask your child age-appropriate questions without you present, such as, “What’s your favorite subject in school? Your least favorite? Why?”
  • Interview with the parents. We will also want to give you ample time (without your child present) to talk about your questions, concerns and frustrations with your child, such as short attention span, failure to follow through on homework or chores, non-stop activity or frequently losing his/her temper. Also, we might ask you to fill out a questionnaire about your child’s abilities and symptoms.
  • Interview with your child’s teacher(s). If your child is in school, we may want to speak with his/her teacher. Does your child have trouble waiting his/her turn, seems overly fidgety or restless, is easily distracted, or has a hard time following directions?
  • Physical examination. We will give your child a thorough physical exam, if his/her current one is out of date, to rule out any health issues that could be causing ADHD-like symptoms, such as vision or hearing problems.
  • Treatment options and follow-up. In addition to medication (if warranted), treatment options may include behavior therapy (changing your child’s environment to help improve behavior), working with you, the parents, to give you skills to deal with your child’s behavior, changes in the school environment, and a number of other alternative treatments. We will also want to see you and your child for follow-up visits to check on his/her progress.

Learn more about ADHD

To read American Academy of Pediatrics articles on causes of ADHD, common symptoms of hyperactivity, behavioral side effects of medication, and more, click here.

Come see us, we’re here to help

If you think your child might have ADHD, please make an appointment with Westchester Health. One of our pediatricians will meet with you, diagnose whether or not your child does indeed have ADHD, and together with you, come up with a plan to help your child have the best opportunities for a happy, healthy life.

Make an appt

To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.

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