If you suspect your child has ADHD, take a moment to review the DSM IV criteria used by psychiatrists, psychologists and physicians. This criteria is available online through the CDC official website and through many other websites talking about mental health.
As you can see, diagnosing ADHD in your child is a lot more difficult than television commercials would like you to believe! This is why most doctors cringe when a teacher sends them a child after already having labeled them with ADHD. Remember that teachers and school counselors are not qualified to diagnose your child with ADHD, not because they are not familiar with the criterion for ADHD but because they don’t have the resources to check your child for any of the myriad of other conditions that would contribute to these symptoms.
Diagnosing your child with ADHD if first done by comparing the criteria mentioned above with a pre-set idea of what is “normal” for their age group. It is important if you are diagnosing your child with ADHD that you ensure they are evaluated by a physician or psychiatrist familiar with child development. Unlike adults, where the expectations of a twenty five year old when it comes to being able to control themselves, react appropriately to various situations and focus on a task are very similar to the expectations of a thirty year old, the expectations of a five year old for those same behaviors are drastically different than those of a ten year old.
From that basic guideline a physician or psychiatrist diagnosing ADHD in your child will take into consideration other factors that may be causing their symptoms, such as hearing or vision problems, difficulties in their home environment, prematurity, abuse, food allergies or dietary deficiencies. From that point they will be able to make an accurate diagnosis as to whether or not your child’s behavior stems from ADHD.
Diagnosing ADHD in your child is a complicated process, and it should be recognized as such. Far too many parents take their children to the doctor, announce they have ADHD and put them on Ritalin without exploring any of the alternatives. The drugs used to treat ADHD are Class II controlled substances, right along with cocaine, methamphetamine and opium. You would never blindly hand your child any of these drugs. Use the same care when diagnosing ADHD in your child.