Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have problems with attention, controlling their impulses, trouble completing tasks and may be hyperactive. They often have other problems, such as learning difficulties, making friends, oppositional behaviour, anxiety and ill-health that may need to be looked into. It is hard for these children to control their behavior and/or pay attention. ADHD symptoms can be caused by a number of other problems, including learning difficulties, social issues, ill-health and other mental health issues.
• Psychiatrists – Child psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating childhood mental and behavioral disorders. A psychiatrist can provide therapy and prescribe any needed medications.
• Psychologists – Child psychologists are also qualified to diagnose and treat ADHD. They can provide therapy for the child and help the family develop ways to deal with the disorder. But psychologists are not medical doctors and must rely on the child’s physician to do medical exams and prescribe medication.
• Paediatricians – Paediatricians are doctors who work with children and their health in general. It is recommended that every child should have one fixed paediatrician so that it becomes easy to follow up on any treatment program.
• Neurologists – Neurologists are doctors who work with disorders of the brain and nervous system. They can also diagnose ADHD and prescribe medicines. But unlike psychiatrists and psychologists, neurologists usually do not provide therapy for the emotional aspects of the disorder.
In selecting a specialist, it’s important to find someone with specific training and experience in diagnosing and treating the disorder. Whatever the specialist’s expertise, his or her first task is to gather information that will rule out other possible reasons for the child’s behavior. Ideally, in ruling out other causes, the specialist checks the child’s school and medical records. The child’s teachers, past and present, are asked to rate their observations of the child’s behavior on standardized evaluation forms, known as behavior rating scales, to compare the child’s behavior to that of other children the same age. In looking at the results of these various sources of information, the specialist pays special attention to the child’s behaviour during situations that demand a lot of self-control, as well as noisy or unstructured situations such as parties, or during tasks that require sustained attention, like reading, working math problems, or playing a board game. Behaviour during free play or when the child is getting individual attention is given less importance in the evaluation. In such situations, most children with ADHD are able to control their behavior and perform better than in more restrictive situations. The specialist then pieces together a profile of the child’s behaviour.
Not everyone who is overly hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive has ADHD. Since everyone shows some of these behaviours at times, for a proper diagnosis, such behavior should be demonstrated to a degree that is inappropriate for the person’s age and effects his/her normal functional skills.