Evaluation & Diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders, states the National Institute of Mental Health. Determining whether or not a child has this often-overlooked mental health disorder involves a series of in-depth, highly individual-oriented evaluations by a physician before a diagnosis can be reached.
Symptoms of ADHD usually begin to emerge in children between the ages of 3 and 6 years, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unlike intermittent behavioral problems, these symptoms persist over long periods of time and can continue for many years-- even into adulthood--if left undiagnosed and untreated during childhood.
According to the NIMH, a doctor will examine a child's symptoms against three sub-types of ADHD: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. The child undergoing evaluation must exhibit six or more signs from one or a combination of these sub-types in order to be diagnosed with ADHD, states the Mayo Clinic.
Doctors come to a diagnosis of ADHD by examining the individual child's specific symptoms. Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive symptoms of ADHD in children include nonstop talking, impatience, the inability to sit still, and the need to be in a constant state of motion. The predominantly inattentive sub-type of ADHD features such symptoms as the child having an inability to focus on tasks, difficulty listening when spoken to, and a short attention span.
Other considerations made by a diagnosing physician include the child's social, school and emotional functioning, according to the nonprofit organization, Children and Adults with Attention/Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). A physician will listen carefully to both parents and teachers of a child she is evaluating for ADHD, and make note of key behavioral and emotional problem areas in order to come to an effective diagnosis.
Once a careful evaluation of a child's symptoms and behavioral patterns has been made, a physician will examine the significant data gathered both through observation and interaction with the child, as well as interviews with parents, teachers and counselors to decide whether or not to make a diagnosis of ADHD. Upon making a diagnosis, the physician will then discuss treatment options-- including stimulant medications and behavioral therapy-- with the parents and child living with ADHD. Such treatments, says NIMH, can reduce the severity of the symptoms experienced by the child with ADHD.