ADHD Evaluation and Diagnosis: What to Expect
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Is your gut telling you that something isn’t quite right? Do you wonder if your child might have ADHD but you don’t know what to expect when it comes to going forward with an evaluation? Not knowing about the process can be scary. Will they be thorough? Will they dope up your kid so he or she is a zombie? These are valid questions and concerns.
My son, Red is sixteen and was diagnosed with ADHD ten years ago. I began to suspect something was up when he was four. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was exactly, but my mama gut was tugging at me. When he started Kindergarten, I was even more sure that something was going on. I talked to his teacher, who was of the old guard and just a couple of years away from retirement, and she wasn’t especially helpful. Still, my gut was telling me something.
Related: Three Things You Shouldn’t Say to an ADHD Parent
When we got to first grade, his teacher was awesome. She was willing to listen to my concerns and give feedback. She was younger so she wasn’t of the generation of teachers who think that ADHD isn’t real, and she gave me the support and validation I needed to seek an ADHD evaluation and diagnosis.
Symptoms of ADHD
At this point I think many of us are familiar with or can guess the symptoms of ADHD. A kid will run around the room and not listen to their parents or teachers, right? Not necessarily. There are several different types of ADHD so your child’s symptoms won’t be the same as Johnny or Suzie’s symptoms.
- Lacking focus
- Forgets daily tasks and activities
- Easily distracted
- Difficulty paying attention
- Makes seemingly careless or sloppy mistakes
- Fidgets in their seat
- Always doing something with their hands
- Gets up and walks around often
- Doesn’t play quietly
- Talks excessively
- Seems restless or always on the go.
- Interrupts others
- Has trouble waiting their turn
- Blurts out answers
- Talks at inappropriate times
- May seem rude; doesn’t have a filter
- You hit the jackpot! Your child will have a little or a lot of all of the above traits. This is Red; he has the ADHD trifecta.
Let’s get this out of the way first. You will not walk in to a doctor’s office, talk to him or her for a few minutes about how your child doesn’t listen, runs around, and doesn’t do their homework and walk out with an Adderall prescription. That’s now how it works. Getting an ADHD diagnosis isn’t as easy as some people who don’t know anything about it may believe.
You may choose to visit a pediatrician or a psychiatrist for an evaluation. Ours was done by a pediatrician, but if I had to do it all over again I think I would choose a psychiatrist because they have a better knowledge of medications and behavioral therapies.
When you arrive for your ADHD evaluation, you will talk to the doctor about your concerns, ask any questions you have, and listen to their thoughts. You will then be handed two or three questionnaires. One for you, one for your child’s teacher, and maybe one for a daycare provider. These questionnaires will be filled out independently and returned back to the doctor for their evaluation.
The questionnaires have been handed in and the results come back. Your child has ADHD. You will likely go through some emotions, and that’s okay. But rest assured, you are a good parent and your child isn’t broken. There are actually some positives here. ADHD kids are typically very smart and when they set their mind to something, they go into hyper-focus and will master that subject or hobby.
But there are also many challenges. The first and most important challenge will be to decide on a treatment plan with your doctor. I am of the opinion that medications work wonders, especially when paired with behavioral therapy. I notice immediately when my son forgets to take his meds. But whether or not you choose medication will be best discussed with your child’s doctor.
Finding the right medication and the right dose is a lot of trial and error, and it can be nerve wracking. Over the years we have tried five medications at varying doses. Try not to worry; medication will not change who your child is. They will not become a zoned out zombie and they will still be themselves. If your child is a zombie, their dosage is too high and you will want to call your doctor immediately for a lower dose.
Once you have your diagnosis and your treatment plan in order, you will want to contact your child’s school and have an IEP or 504 plan put in place. The sooner the better so that your child can get any help that they may need. These accommodations could be anything from extra time on tests and written assignments, preferential seating, being allowed to have a fidget in class (my son has had a stress ball and a Rubik’s cube), or anything else your child needs to be as successful as possible.
ADHD kids learn differently and have some hurdles, but they can do very well in school with the proper support. My son has always been an A and B student after his diagnosis and getting his treatment plan in order.
Once you have all of your ADHD ducks in a row, carry on with life as usual. Your child will need some support, they may need daily reminders for some things, you may need to make them a chart or set reminders on a calendar for them. You will get frustrated sometimes, and that’s okay. That’s just part of being a parent.
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This post was very informative. I learned a lot.