Family Health Guide

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ADHD: At the Doctor

Finding a Specialist

Your pediatrician may refer you to a specialist to diagnose and/or treat ADHD if she does not diagnose or treat ADHD (or she may refer you for diagnosis, but manage treatment once the diagnosis is made).  Developmental pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, neurologists, social workers and other medical professionals can, if properly licensed, diagnose ADHD. However, only medical professionals can prescribe medication.

If your child has co-existing conditions, like learning disabilities or other mental disorders, that may influence the kind of professional you choose. You also may want to get a referral from your insurance company to ensure diagnosis and treatment are covered. Universities and large hospitals often have ADHD centers and can provide names of specialists. And of course word-of-mouth is always an excellent way to find help.

You can also go to (Children and Adults with ADD) and access CHADD’s professional directory. CHADD doesn’t endorse or recommend any professionals, but does provide a list sorted by region. Local chapters in your area may also be able to help.

At the Doctor’s Visit

Once your doctor eliminates other explanations for your child’s behavior, your doctor or a specialist will evaluate your child for ADHD. Come to your appointment prepared.

  • Bring a written list of your child’s issues, when they started and why they’re causing problems. Otherwise, it’s too easy to “go blank” when a doctor asks questions.
  • Bring all relevant school, medical and daycare records.
  • Be prepared to be asked brutally honest questions and give brutally honest answers about your family lifestyle, diet and any recent changes or events that could affect your child’s behavior. Does your child routinely stay up past bedtime? Has the family been experiencing any big changes? Honesty is the best way to get your child the help he needs.
  • Both parents should come if at all possible. If you’re a single parent or only one parent can come, consider bringing a friend or relative.
  • Have one person take notes; it’s an emotional process and you’ll want to remember everything the doctor says.

At your appointment, your doctor will probably:

  • interview you and your child;
  • ask a series of questions to see if your child’s behavior meets the symptom criteria of the DSM-IV (see symptoms).
  • review school records
  • have you complete rating scales, ie, Does your child have trouble sitting still? Yes, no, somewhat

Your doctor may also want to gather information from teachers, childcare providers and others who have observed your child in his daily life before making a diagnosis.

If your child has demonstrated a significant number of symptoms over a long period of time, and that behavior is wreaking havoc on his life in and outside the home, your doctor will most likely diagnose ADHD.