If all children have difficulty sitting still, paying attention, and waiting their turn some time or another, how can a parent know if their child’s behaviors are developmentally appropriate?

Deciding if a child has ADHD is a several-step process. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression and certain types of learning disabilities) can have similar symptoms. Therefore, a comprehensive evaluation is necessary to establish a diagnosis, rule out other causes, and determine the presence or absence of co-existing conditions. Such an evaluation should include a careful history and a clinical assessment of the individual’s academic, social, and emotional functioning and developmental level.

If a parent is concerned about whether their child might have ADHD, the first step is to talk with a healthcare professional to find out if the symptoms fit the diagnosis. The diagnosis can be made by a mental health professional (e.g., psychologist or psychiatrist) or by a primary care provider (e.g., pediatrician). Regardless of who does the evaluation, the use of the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for ADHD is necessary. The patient must show six or more persistent symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity prior to the age of twelve. These symptoms must be present in two or more settings and interfere with or reduce the quality of social, school or work functioning.

If you are interested in learning more about our ADHD or have further follow-up questions, contact us at (301) 652-5550.