What is Involved in Diagnosing ADHD?

Lori Smith
Lori Smith
Symptoms of ADHD become more obvious in kindergarten or first grade.
Symptoms of ADHD become more obvious in kindergarten or first grade.

Diagnosing ADHD, especially in children, is generally a team effort. Parents, teachers and caregivers are usually called upon to provide valuable information regarding the child's behavior patterns, family history and home life. Psychologists and pediatricians use their own observations collectively with what others report so they can form an opinion and an effective treatment plan. Prior to diagnosing ADHD, doctors will typically rule out other potential causes for an individual's lack of focus or disruptive behavior.

Children with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention in class and having long conversations.
Children with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention in class and having long conversations.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in young people is usually apparent within the first few years of grade school. Teachers are frequently the first to notice symptoms of distraction and excessive or inappropriate hyperactivity. This is because children with ADHD often exhibit signs when they are placed in an environment with plenty of stimuli, such as a classroom setting. When children with ADHD experience a change in their normal routines, which is typical when starting kindergarten or first grade, symptoms generally become more obvious.

Problems at home between parents may cause a child to become hyperactive.
Problems at home between parents may cause a child to become hyperactive.

Children with symptoms of ADHD may behave differently at varying times of the day or night, depending on the stimulus and surroundings. For this reason, mental health practitioners and physicians frequently ask parents and teachers to complete a comprehensive evaluation regarding the child's behavior before diagnosing ADHD. This is important because symptoms may differ at school where the stimuli is more pronounced than at home.

Since ADHD is typically a hereditary condition, the treating physician or psychologist will often gather a complete medical history from the child's parents prior to diagnosing ADHD. Not all hyperactivity or distractibility in children is a result of ADHD, however. Sometimes, major changes within the family home, such as divorce or a traumatic event can affect a child's demeanor. A psychologist can usually get to the root of various behavioral issues following a series of talk-therapy sessions, along with input from caregivers.

In addition to psychological testing and counseling, diagnosing ADHD usually involves other forms of evaluation, such as medical examinations and blood tests. This can be helpful to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms. When diagnosing ADHD, medical professionals frequently eliminate other conditions first.

Once ADHD is diagnosed, healthcare professionals may suggest various types of treatment, which might include dietary changes, vitamin supplements or even medication. Symptoms can then be monitored to determine if the therapy or medication is working. Adjustments to treatment methods may be warranted based on the parents, teachers or doctor's observations. When the right plan is in place, children usually perform much better in school and often appear happier at home, too.

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    • Symptoms of ADHD become more obvious in kindergarten or first grade.
      By: Petro Feketa
      Symptoms of ADHD become more obvious in kindergarten or first grade.
    • Children with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention in class and having long conversations.
      By: sepy
      Children with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention in class and having long conversations.
    • Problems at home between parents may cause a child to become hyperactive.
      By: Jaimie Duplass
      Problems at home between parents may cause a child to become hyperactive.