How to Get a Good Diagnosis to See If Your Child Has ADHD

Your child's teacher says that you need to find out if your child has ADHD or not. What do you do? Here are some tips from the ADHD Information Library.

First, find a clinician, a Psychologist, or Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist, or Psychiatrist, who has a good working knowledge of Attention Deficit Disorder - ADD or ADHD. Most mental health professionals do NOT know much about the disorder, even if they tell you that they do. During my formal training in psychology at both the Master's level and the Doctorate level I received about 15 minutes of training on ADHD. Find an expert in your community.

Ask parents at your local CHADD meeting about who the best doctor and the best therapist in your area are. Then call your local psychiatric hospital and ask for either the Children's Unit or the Adolescent Unit Charge Nurse. Ask the nurse who the best doctor and therapist for treating Attention Deficit Disorder are. Once you have a name or two, call the professional on the phone and give them a two minute interview.

Keep the phone call brief. They are busy people too. Ask them questions such as, "What percentage of your practice is with Attention Deficit Disorder - ADD ADHD children or teens?" "How many years experience do you have in treating ADD ADHD individuals?" "How do you do a diagnostic work-up for Attention Deficit Disorder - ADD ADHD?" and "What treatment options are you familiar with in the treatment of ADD ADHD?" Based on their answers you will know whether or not you will want to work with them.

Read this entire ADD Information Library web site. Once you have read the 80 or so pages of information at that site for parents you will be ready to meet with the professional who will do the assessment, and perhaps the treatment. If the professional seems to know more than you do (after you've spent time preparing) then that is a good sign. If they seem to know less than you now do, then that is a bad sign. Why pay money to someone who knows less than you do?

Find the Expert -- do what he recommends -- and pay him what he's worth.

Ask to have a thorough assessment done, including a parent interview, a child interview, parent and teacher rating scales, and TOVA testing as appropriate. Emotional conditions that could also be causing ADHD-like symptoms must be ruled out.

If the diagnosis is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder what should you do?

Never give up YOUR responsibility as your child's parent to any professional (medical, psychological, or educational). If they are experts, get information and opinions based on their experience. Trust their judgment and learn from their wisdom. But YOU are the parent. Once your child or teen has had a good work up, and you have a "righteous" diagnosis you will have a lot of decisions to make regarding treatment. But always remember that YOU are the parent.

It is YOUR job to get all of the information that you can from the experts and make the decisions regarding your child's treatment. No professional will ever love your child as much as you do. Educate yourself until you are an expert! Read lots of books, vist each of the ADHD Information Library's family of web sites, talk to lots of people who know what they are talking about. Subscribe to our newsletter. As Solomon said, "My son, get Wisdom and Knowledge." You need to become an expert NOW!

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.

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