The ADD/ADHD Diagnosis: Getting Accurate Results
It is not difficult for a child to be labelled ADD/ADHD today -often all it takes is a frustrated teacher who is not able to manage her, and a psychologist / psychiatrist / doctor who likes to work with a checklist of behaviours and a pencil. But because many other serious problems have symptoms that are similar to ADD/ADHD, it is necessary that the diagnosis be done with care. Here I have listed out the steps that every diagnosis of ADD/ADHD should include:
Step 1: Checking for other physical problems
A doctor should check that there are no vision or hearing or fine-motor problems that make it hard for the child to pay attention to other people or make school work difficult. He will also check for thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism that mimic ADD, and take a brain scan to rule out a form of epilepsy -petit mal, or 'absence' epilepsy - which is often interpreted by teachers as a lack of attention.
Step 2: Checking the medical, social, educational and psychological history
The doctor will want to know the conditions of pregnancy and birth, major health issues, sleep habits, and if she reached the milestones on time. He will ask about her family: do her parents have any learning disorders or mental illness? How is she doing in school? Is she depressed? If the inattention is because of depression or foetal alcohol syndrome, conventional drug therapy with stimulants will not be suitable.
Step 3: Interviewing
The doctor at this stage looks for an assessment of herself-esteem and coping strategies rather than evidence of misbehaviour. In his interviews with the parents and teachers he will look for issues connected with discipline, affection, and the match between the child's skills and what is happening in her classes. He may advise the parents to be less strict and more patient, and the teacher to be more creative in the way she teaches.
Step 4: Testing
In this final stage, the results will be interpreted according to the results of the previous steps in the diagnosis. There are many tests for ADD/ADHD available over the web, some consisting basically of a list of behaviours the parent, teacher or psychologist needs to check off and some of tests that claim to measure actual performance in an activity involving concentration.
The problem with the checklist diagnosis is that the outcome is often determined by what the person filling in the checklist wants to believe, and the problem with the tests of continuous performance is that coffee, cola, lack of sleep and even practice in computer games can affect results.
If after all these steps, your child does seem to have ADD/ADHD, you need to think carefully about what treatment you should opt for - behaviour therapy, a modified environment, or medication? Medication is the most conventional, but not the only answer.
About the author:
[Dead links removed]