“Dear Dr. B.,
I’ve been wondering if my child has an attention problem. How do I know? It seems like ADHD is over-diagnosed and I don’t want to put her on medication. K.D.”
I’m glad you asked. Accurate diagnosis is critical. I think you are right – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often over-diagnosed. This often happens when a parent or teacher is concerned about a child’s functioning and then a diagnosis is made off a checklist.
Truth be told, depending on the time of day we took it, we might all look like we have a touch of ADHD now and then. A neuropsychological evaluation actually assesses an individual’s true level of functioning to help arrive at a diagnosis, after an interview confirms a certain degree of questionable symptoms occurring.
If you are concerned about your child, do a little investigative work. Talk with her teachers to see how her attention is in class. If she is in extracurricular activities, speak with the leaders there to see how well she pays attention compared to her peers. If you attend church and she participates in church activities, ask her leaders about her attention and performance.
And pay attention to her behavior at home. Does she daydream? Does she struggle with organizational skills? Does she have difficulty independently managing multiple step tasks without frequent reminders or repetition of instructions by you? Does she have difficulty listening when you speak to her directly? Does she interrupt you when you are speaking?
We all do these things from time to time, but if you notice a habitual pattern and you hear similar reports from those in her other environments, then I would schedule an appointment to have her evaluated by a local neuropsychologist.
I hear your last concern frequently. Most of us don’t want to medicate our children (or ourselves) unnecessarily. Rest assured, even if your child has a diagnosable attention disorder, there are many avenues of treatment to consider. Medication is helpful in certain situations, but medication is certainly not the only treatment possibility.
I hope this helps put your mind at rest and give you a little guidance. Best of luck to you.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
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