ADHD or Just Being a Kid?
How can parents tell the difference between a child with true ADHD, and one who’s just a little immature or going through a difficult phase? Often they can't without the help of a medical professional. In order for a child to be diagnosed for ADHD, he or she must demonstrate symptoms outlined by American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, known as DSM IV. These symptoms include an inability to focus, a tendency to lose things, trouble listening, and more behaviors that pretty much sound like your typical preschooler on a bad day. “We are not talking about one-off incidents, or just a tough time of day when kids are tired,” says Dr. Wolraich. “Parents should see these behaviors consistently in multiple settings. It’s the extent and frequency of the problem that helps us make the diagnosis.” Pediatricians should also first rule out other causes of problem behavior, like poor vision, hearing, traumatic life events or other learning disabilities.
What about kids who seem to be borderline, able to squeak by in school but having a tougher time managing hyperactivity and impulsiveness than their peers? Talk to your pediatrician. Behavior modification therapy, which includes group or private parent training, may help even without an official ADHD diagnosis. “Behavior modification provides techniques to help you to parent better,” says Dr. Wolraich, which might be enough to help you keep your challenging child on track.