Concerns About the Diagnostic Process


"I realize that ADHD is often over-diagnosed as well as under-diagnosed. As a social worker, what can I do to help parents seek out an evaluation that is thorough?"

Dr. Larry Silver specializes in treating children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

I share your concern. The diagnosis is not made because someone sees certain behaviors.

First, you have to confirm the presence of one or more of three behaviors: hyperactivity, distractibility, and/or impulsivity. Then, you have to show that these behaviors are pervasive (that is, they occur in most settings - school, home, activities, sports, play time).

Finally, you have to show that these behaviors have been present over many if not most years. You might get a copy of my book, Dr. Larry Silver's Advice to Parents on ADHD, and suggest that the teachers you are concerned about read the chapter on diagnosis. You might share this chapter with parents before they go to their family doctor.

Larry Silver, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He is a former acting director and deputy director of the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as the author of Dr. Larry Silver's Advice to Parents on AD/HD and The Misunderstood Child: Understanding and Coping with Your Child's Learning Disabilities.
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