The diagnosing of ADHD in children continue to occur more often, and earlier than in the past, with children being labeled and medicated sometimes even before they reach school age. So why are we hearing about this disorder more often? Why are our children being misdiagnosed? What is normal childhood behavior versus attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder? What are alternative and holistic ways to treat ADHD?
As a psychologist who conducts assessment on children, I can’t tell you how many times I get a referral for evaluating ADHD and upon observing the child at school, I am not able to differentiate the ADHD suspected child from other children. Parents and teachers are quick to seek ADHD assessment partly because labels and diagnoses seemingly offer solutions, a fix, an end to difficult child behavior. In a society saturated with pharmaceutical treatment, a focus on illness rather then wellness and quick-fix thinking, the forgetting or misunderstanding what’s normal is the problem, not child behavior.
Insufficient assessment is also responsible. A proper assessment of children for any disorder includes a parental questionnaire, a teacher questionnaire, consultation with the pediatrician, interaction with the child on several tasks/tests, and most importantly child observation in their social and academic settings. Often times parents look up ADHD symptoms online and then report to professionals that they suspect ADHD, but the problem with that is that only reading the symptoms of the diagnoses without severity and frequency is going to make anyone think their child has the disorder, because these “symptoms” are normal childhood presentations. This is why a thorough questionnaire needs to be given to parents about their child’s day to day behaviors.
A child or an adult who truly has ADHD will exhibit a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interfere with functioning or development, and will exhibit this pattern in more than one setting. Diagnosing children is far more tricky because of overlap with normal childhood behavior and development, such as short attention spans, activity level, and aggression which typically occurs due to not having words for feelings, rather than impulsivity. These typical behaviors in children can be helped easily with education about their sources and how to best react to them to minimize problems and maximize the health and happiness of your child and your family. Children are not and should not be inactive for long periods of time, other than sleep. And little ones have short attention spans to soak in all there is…their creative internal world combined with curiosity about the world they are getting to know makes them who they are….children.
For kids who truly suffer from ADHD and their ability to thrive in their environments is impaired, an alternative and more holistic approach includes behavior therapy, diet, and teaching children self-regulation skills such as meditation, alone or in addition to medication. Sometimes an optimum dose of medication is needed to give a child short term ability to focus and be able to develop other life long techniques. If your child is diagnosed as ADHD and is undergoing treatment, it is still important to differentiate normal child behavior and aspects of ADHD. In the subfield of parenting, it is important, and a strong aspect of my approach, to not merely give guidance but to help parents incorporate the new suggestions into their established parental methods and foster their intuitive thinking, balance and well-being in the entire family. For more information, please call, email or visit my website.