Does my child have ADHD?
I hear this question from parents all the time in my office and from people I meet around town. I am also surprised at how often parents and teachers mistakenly misattribute the “symptoms” for ADHD when the source of the child’s learning or behavioral problems is something environmental either in the home or the learning environment. For example a child who is being bullied might have trouble paying attention in the same way that a child with ADHD misses half the lesson because they are distracted by noise in the hallway.
So how can my child get an accurate diagnosis?
There are many symptom checklist and the like that are often employed by clinicians trying to determine the nature of a child’s inattention and hyperactivity. These lists are helpful; however, they are a measure of symptoms, and not a sample of the child’s performance. Although teacher and parent interviews are essential, as well as cognitive and achievement testing, Mosaic Psychological Services chooses to also use the Test of Variables or Attention (TOVA). This test is like a computer game that the child plays. While the child plays the game the test measures and calculates the child’s responses and response time thus giving the clinician an objective measure of the child’s performance. Also, because the test does not include the use of language or numbers (only symbols), the test is able to rule out any skill deficit as a source of poor performance on the ADHD assessment.
I have a diagnosis so what now?
Many parents tell me that they believe their child to have problems with ADHD, but they won’t bother with an ADHD evaluation because they have no plan to give their child medication. Of course any parent would have concerns about starting psychotropic medication. Although medication is often a treatment option for children and adults with ADHD, it is not the only form of intervention. Behavioral modification and therapy is often very helpful in improving functioning for individuals with ADHD. Additionally, ADHD medications may be prescribed in a stimulant and/or non-stimulant form. For individuals who already utilize medication as an option and do not feel that they are receiving the desired effect, the TOVA may be administered while using ADHD medication in order to determine the medication/dosage efficacy. Ultimately, research suggests that a combination of medication plus therapy is the most effective intervention.