Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the developmental and behavioural disorders. Each child with ADHD will present differently with their symptoms and challenges occurring along a continuum. A diagnosis of ADHD is made when established diagnostic criteria are met. Parents may become concerned when they notice that their child has a short attention span, is reckless, or is very active.
A good starting point is to share your concerns with others who know your child well. This could be family members, class teachers, or early childhood educators. These people spend a lot of time with your child in different environments and can provide useful input. It is possible that their observations will differ from yours which can help inform the diagnosis. A diagnosis of ADHD requires that the child’s symptoms are present and cause impairment in more than one setting.
Not every child who is inattentive, impulsive and overactive has ADHD.
A medical evaluation starts with a discussion with your GP who can make a referral to an appropriate specialist. The best-practice medical approach to making a developmental-behavioural diagnosis involves several appointments to ensure that the correct diagnosis is made.
Symptoms of ADHD occur along a continuum. Often, a child will have associated deficits and co-morbidities. While some medical conditions such as sleep disorders, learning differences, mood disorders and anxiety can co-exist with ADHD, they can also produce similar behaviours on their own and be misdiagnosed as ADHD. Additionally other issues such as conduct disorders or oppositional defiance may co-exist.
It is important therefore to have a comprehensive assessment carried out by a paediatrician, psychiatrist, or clinical psychologist with experience in child development and behaviour. A comprehensive assessment will determine if your child meets the clinical criteria for ADHD, explore alternative explanations for the behaviour and establish whether your child has ADHD together with another diagnosis.