Your Child Probably Has ADHD. Now What?
Our expert explains the steps to take after you notice symptoms of ADHD in children, the assessments, and how parents can use them to help kids move forward.
Your child is in elementary school. For the last year or so, you’ve heard in parent-teacher conferences and occasional emails that your child is ‘fidgety.’ He has difficulty keeping his hands to himself. He gets up out of his seat often. This is happening consistently; no one is beating around the bush anymore: It’s time for an ADHD evaluation. But where do you go from here? With whom should you consult? Who can recognize the symptoms of ADHD in children and diagnose ADHD? And most importantly, how can you use a diagnosis to help your child?
As a parent, when you allow yourself to see that ‘something’ is wrong, it takes time for you to digest and process. Then you research. Next, you talk to someone you trust, and then you figure out the next step. Part of the process is letting go of some of your expectations for your child and for your family as well. This is part of the process; please don’t be hard on yourself if it takes you some time to make sense of it all and accept it.
To begin, you have a couple of choices. You can reach out to neurologist or to a developmental pediatrician. Either one can give you a diagnosis, but you will have little additional information. Perhaps this is all you need in an effort to gain a 504 Accommodation Plan, so this may be a good starting route.
Second, you’ll need to find a psychologist who can evaluate your child using psychological (IQ), educational (achievement), and executive functioning assessments. The psychological evaluation gives you an assessment of your child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, while the educational evaluation takes a look at your child’s academic functioning in areas such as writing, spelling, math, reading comprehension, etc. Executive functioning testing will take a look at impulse control, cognitive flexibility, problem solving, and learning and memory.
A psychologist is able to take all of this data and help you understand your child’s learning profile or how your child takes in new information, retains it, and demonstrates understanding and learning. This information will make it super easy for you to create an Intervention and Referral Services Plan (I&RS), 504 Accommodation Plan, or Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This will also help you to determine if your child will need extended time or small group administration for standardized statewide testing, which is another important element of your child’s education.
The information gained from a thorough psycho-educational evaluation will help you to help your child at home when working on homework or projects, or even when trying to get through chores. If your child is a visual-spatial learner, you will not use notecards, for example, to help your child learn his multiplication table. Instead, you will create a large poster board and help him to find the patterns and short-cuts.
In the long-run, your child will understand his learning style and be able to advocate for himself. For example, he may ask to sit in the front of the classroom, near the teacher, or away from the door or windows. He may also ask to take a test in another room if the classroom is too distracting. This also helps to build acceptance and self esteem.
Overall, if you suspect that your child has ADHD, gain more information than less as it will serve you, your child and your child’s teacher the best.