ADHD or not?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD or ADD, is a very commonly diagnosed disorder in children.  There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding it, though.  In this era of constant electronic stimulation, crazy schedules, unstructured home time and lots of sugar and fast foods, it can be difficult to figure out if a child has ADHD or something else.

In my practice I am very cautious about diagnosing a child.  Diagnoses like ADHD can follow a child and create a negative stigma.  Being diagnosed can send the child a message that there is something wrong with them.  An appropriate diagnosis and treatment can be incredibly helpful for children with severe mental health or behavioral disorders.

I’m afraid the medical community and parents can be a bit quick to jump the gun, however.  When treating a child and helping parents who are concerned about a child’s behaviors, I like to assess the whole picture first.  Rather than jumping straight to medicating a child, which can have a lot of side effects, why not rule out eveything else first?

If you are concerned that your child may have ADHD, consider the following:

  1. Does your child have a regular routine and structure?  Kids thrive on consistent structure (even though they fight it!)
  2. Does your child have a regular bedtime and are they getting enough sleep?
  3. How much sugary food or foods containing chemicals does your child consume?
  4. How much “screen time” does your child have?  According to to National Institute of Health, kids typically have 5 to 7 hours of screen time (time in front of a TV, computer, tablet, etc.).  Too much screen time can be detrimental.  Kid’s brains are stimulated by screen time, which can make focusing, calming down, having good behavior or going to sleep difficult.  I typically recommend no screen time beyond dinner (typically 6 or 7 p.m.).
  5. Is your child physically active?  They need regular exercise and outside time.
  6. Is your child engaging in regular free play?
  7. Is your parenting consistent?  Does your child know what to expect?  Oftentimes inconsistent parenting results in poor behavior on the part of a child.  This can masquerade as ADHD or other disorders when in reality the child’s behavior can improve dramatically with consistent disciplined parenting.
  8. If you are getting some uncomfortable answers to these questions, you might consider seeking help to improve the structure, diet and parenting in your home.  Please consider that first before you place your child on a medication that can have serious effects on them.
  9. Your child may have ADHD.  You may have already tried everything mentioned above to no effect.  Remember, you are your child’s best advocate.  No doctor, teacher or therapist knows your child like you do. Fight for good help for your child.  If you’re unhappy with the services you’re receiving, say so!  If you think the treatment isn’t working, speak up so that they can better help you and your child.
  10. Take a look at the books in my Resources tab – Try and Make Me and Delivered From Distraction.  These are great resources for ADHD and parenting.