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Does My Child Have ADHD?

Many families have opted for virtual education over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so parents have been able to observe their children in an academic setting. And some wonder if their children’s difficulty adapting to virtual learning may be because of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosed in kids, affecting up to 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Parents or teachers may notice symptoms as early as preschool that could persist into adulthood. Getting a timely, accurate diagnosis is important to address any challenges sooner. 

Not every child who has a hard time concentrating or sitting still has ADHD. Typically, a child with the disorder exhibits inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity that impairs their behavior in at least two settings, such as school, home or social relationships.

My Child Is Struggling — What’s the Next Step? 

If your child appears to be struggling in more than one setting, and you have discussed performance issues with the teacher, your pediatrician may want to evaluate your child. Using behavioral rating scales, they will request feedback from parents and teachers to assess your child for: 

Inattentive Symptoms: 

  • Not paying attention to details or making careless errors

  • Not listening 

  • Failing to follow through on tasks or not completing activities

  • Reduced organizational skills

  • Avoiding or disliking doing tasks that require sustained mental effort

  • Losing items frequently

  • Easily distracted by their surroundings

  • Forgetful 

Hyperactive/Impulsive Symptoms:

  • Fidgeting with hands or feet

  • Difficulty remaining seated

  • Active when expected to remain seated

  • Difficulty engaging in quiet activities

  • On-the-go or acts as if driven by a motor

  • Talking excessively

  • Talking out of turn

  • Difficulty waiting their turn

  • Interrupting others’ conversations or activities

Seeking Professional Resources

Sheer effort alone is unlikely to help your child overcome symptoms of ADHD. Specialized accommodations and an individualized treatment plan (IEP or 504 Plan) can be coordinated by the school team and your pediatrician. Nearly 64 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD also have another mental, emotional or behavioral disorder, such as anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder or Tourette syndrome. So be sure to bring up with the pediatrician any additional concerns noticed by teachers and caregivers. 

Treatment Options

Children diagnosed with ADHD typically are not immediately put on medication. Clinical guidelines recommend in-home behavioral and classroom interventions before trying medication. Parents should work with the school and healthcare teams to develop a behavioral plan that best supports your child. 

A behavioral specialist can help teach parents strategies for managing their child’s symptoms of ADHD and co-occurring behaviors. Often, making a task more fun with extra attention or making a game out of the activity — or withholding attention from stalling behaviors — will encourage children to cooperate. Providing positive feedback and rewards for desired behaviors, while setting firm and consistent limits for the child to follow, can be effective. Rewards that keep a child motivated may simply be special attention from a parent (reading a story, playing a board game, having a dance party). A sticker chart can be a fun way to help your child organize and track positive behaviors. Close communication between home and school is critical.

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