What Parents Need To Know About ADHD Evaluation And Treatment

Do you think your child may have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (also known as ADHD)? More than an estimated six million children in the United States have this diagnosis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Take a look at what you need to know about your child's ADHD evaluation and treatment.

Where Should You Start?

ADHD is not a condition you can self-diagnose. Even though it might seem like your child fits the criteria, a diagnosis always requires a professional evaluation. If you're not sure where to begin this process, start with your child's pediatrician. The medical provider can help you to understand the signs to watch for and provide you with the next steps to take.

Provided the pediatrician feels further evaluation is needed, they can refer you to a specialist. This type of behavioral or medical provider should have the knowledge and experience necessary to assess your child using the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition) criteria.

A comprehensive evaluation may also include input from other people in your child's life. The healthcare provider may want to speak with you, your child's teacher, or other therapists who work with your child.

What Happens After a Diagnosis?

After a professional diagnoses your child with ADHD, your family is ready to choose a treatment option. Your child is an individual. This means they have different needs than other children—including other children with ADHD.

There isn't one universal treatment that works for every child. The two primary treatment options are behavioral therapy and medication. Behavioral interventions are often preferable (over medication) for younger children. Therapy may include sessions directly with the child, parent training, and classroom-level interventions. Some children can benefit from a combination of these approaches. This requires the therapist, the parents, and the teachers to work together.

If therapy alone doesn't make a significant impact, the professional may suggest a medical approach. There are a few different ADHD medications that are FDA-approved for children ages six and up. These include stimulant and nonstimulant options. ADHD medications require a doctor's prescription. The specific medication the doctor chooses depends on several factors, such as your child's age, symptoms, overall health, and side effects.

The doctor may need to observe your child and adjust the type of medication or dosage over time. Even though some prescriptions can help children with ADHD to manage their symptoms, ADHD treatment may require a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.