We Suspect ADHD, What's the Diagnosis Process?

Updated on September 18, 2011
M.S. asks from Mansfield, TX
15 answers

Our daughter was always a spirited baby and child, but for the last two years she has been beyond difficult. Zoning out when we are talking to her, not being able to focus on certain tasks, socially withdrawing at times. I started suspecting ADHD and mentioned this past summer to her pediatrician at her yearly checkup. She did agree that she had some of the symptoms, but we wanted to see how she did when school started back up. Well, on the second and third day (of first grade) she came home with yellow faces. She does things like talks or sings to herself when they are supposed to be quiet during writing time. She also gets frustrated easily when learning a new task that she doesn't think she can do perfectly the first time. Her reactions to frustration are either to shut down totally (at school) or overreact with an emotional outburst (sometimes a temper tantrum) (at home). After talking the past couple of weeks with a couple of good friends who have children diagnosed with ADHD, I'm starting to see many similarities. Her pediatrician did say did to give it about 6 weeks at school and then if we still felt we were seeing signs to contact her and we'd have a consulation. I don't know that I can wait much longer. After doing some reading, I see this as a possibility and I'd love to start working on fixing the problem. WHat's the normal process like? Is the pediatrician the right place to start or should we try to see a child psychologist first?

For the record, I am a high school teacher and for many years I always thought the ADHD diagnosis was a crock. I thought the right diet and dicipline could go a long way in fixing a lot of these problems. I am starting to change my mind. Our daughter eatsa pretty good diet, very little sugar (other than fruit). I try to make well-balanced meals (I cook most every night of the week). Now that I am beginning to see this as a real medical issue, I have alot more sympathy for my students, but I also see that there is a chance our daughter can get some kind of help and maybe make our family's lives more enjoyable (if we aren't constantly griping at her).

I guess I just want to know what's the best way to start the diagnosis process. Thanks, ladies!

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answers from Seattle on

Yes! I second S.H.'s words. Riley's advice has been invaluable in my home. I have been reading a book she recommends, "You mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid and Crazy". http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_9?field-keywords...+

Other Resources:

Dr. Gabor Mate's book, "Scattered"

This is a GREAT (and short) video on our education system:

Also, Hyperfocus in ADD/ADHD children, is (from what I understand) valuable when diagnosing children. Children typically *lack* focus - it's developmentally appropriate. Finding that a child goes into hyperfocus can be a useful indicator.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Dear M.,

That is normal behavior for kids. You just have to find a way to help your daughter cope with things that do not come easy to her. We have 8 kids and several of them have had behavior like that. They are normal kids. Everyone is different. Some kids like to focus only on what they like or what it's easy for them. After summer, kids need to transition again into the routines, not being able to talk to their friends whenever they fell like, etc. I talked all the time until I decided to get all As including conduct. I don't have ADHD and I coud never sit still either. I have lots of energy and that keeps me going to do all the things I need to do in our family. The teachers just let me sit in the back and move. As I grew older I didn't move desk to desk but I still fidgetted. It's no big deal. She is only in 1st grade. Just be patient and don't go down the labeling and drugging your kid road. We all have to slowly learn to deal with things in life without some diagnosis or drug. It takes hard work and commitment, and lots of patience. Best wishes and God bless!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from La Crosse on

Our ped refered us to a child devolopment specialist. Before even meeting with the kids they sent out a package for each parent to fill out. Sent one to two different teachers to fill out and then compaired notes. Then they brought him in and talked with the child and with us and then did some testing one on one with him for about an hour. Then a few days later we came back in and talked with the specialist and the ped to discuss the findings. One has the classic ADHD ( we knew this before having him tested). It truly was the best thing to put him on pills, he is so much happier and we as parents aren't harping on him all the time. His teacher felt the same. He even takes his meds on the weekends. My other son ( who I thought the teacher was crazy for even suggested it) does have ADD. But his is on the outer circle of the "typical" ADD/ ADHD. Now its amazing on how much better he does in school. He was always B's. But he would only do the tests, not his homework. He couldn't stay focused enough to do it. Now he is straight A's, the 2nd to the top student in his class and can focus enough to do his homework also. It never hurts to have her tested. If its not ADD it could be something else to explain what is causing her actions.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

All I know is, MamaPedia member Riley J. is very knowledgeable in this, per ADHD.
Maybe she will see your post.

But also, it can be many things.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Don't let the pediatrician try to diagnose. He/she simply doesn't have the necessary expertise and you want this done right. Ask for a referral to a specialist like a child psychiatrist. A specialist will give you forms to fill out, as well as some for your daughter's teacher. Those will get assessed, along with any previous medical reports about related problems, and you'll meet with the psychiatrist to discuss the symptoms.

Be prepared for a wait. It can take months to get in with a specialist, so don't delay in asking the pediatrician for the referral.

Our process was a long one. I mentioned my concerns about our son's behavior to his pediatrician (ADHD is one of his specialties) and he immediately sent us to a child psychologist (who can't diagnose, but offers feedback). We got behavior modification strategies, none of which worked. So, the psychologist referred us to a behavioral therapist (also not qualified to diagnose but offers feedback). More strategies that didn't work, since our son couldn't control his behavior. Then we saw a child psychiatrist, who could diagnose and offer medication, if necessary.

You are right in that diet and parenting can't fix ADHD. It would be wonderful if that was the case! It really is a medical issue and a complex one at that.

Medication, combined with therapy, has the best track record for treatment. Be very careful about any "alternative" strategies peddled by the general public. You want to build your own knowledge of this condition and listen to the specialists, if you do, in fact, get this diagnosis for your daughter. Two great resources are CHADD and ADDitude magazine. Also look for message boards online devoted strictly to ADHD so you can avoid the general public, which generally tends to be extremely misinformed about ADHD.

Best of luck as you start the process!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

My son was diagnosed in Jan after he was about to get kicked out of preschool. I was also skeptic of ADHD and all the other disorders until I was a ble to get my son into a psychiatrist. She really helped us under stand that there's some child born that way and no diet or discipline will help. So after she met with us a total of 8 times, once a week for 2 months she diagnosed him with ADHD. We started him on intuniv and clonodine, and no success with intuniv so switched to dextroaphedamine(sp) and that worked for a bit. But my little boy was also diagnosed as bipolar once we started treating the ADHD. So currently we are only treating him for that and he sees a therapist 3 times a month. It should be a process to get a diagnosesis not just a one time thing.

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answers from Austin on

My son has ADHD. We did not have a simple path to a diagnosis. My son had behavior issues at age 3, and he was tested by the school district for speech issues. His behavior one-on-one with a teacher was considered normal. Then he got kicked out of group speech class because he couldn't sit still. He continued to have behavior issues in pre-K and K. In kindergarten, we filled out forms to look for autism spectrum, and it showed that he has Aspergers. Then we saw a pediatric neurologist who agreed with the school's report. When I asked if my son needed to be tested for ADHD, the neurologist said we don't need to test- of course he has ADHD because it's part of his executive brain function problem. But he did not recommend doing anything about it. In 2nd grade, we switched to a different pediatric neurologist who did formal testing and then recommended a low dose of ADHD meds. One test involved looking at a computer screen and pressing a button when a 1 showed up instead of 0. My son thought he was paying attention, but was actually looking around the room instead.



answers from Washington DC on

My five year old son was diagnosed about a year ago. The possibility had been on our radar since he was 2 (his activity level was just way more than even other young boys). At four his lack of impulse control started frustrating HIM and interfering with his ability to feel happy and successful even in his play-based preschool.

Anyway, yes... the pediatrician is probably the right place to start. Ours referred to a psychologist who brought in a psychiatrist to help with the diagnosis. There were observations, and counseling sessions and questionnaires for me, and his teachers.

Ultimately it's a medical diagnosis, so bypassing the pediatrician is a bad idea. Even though the psychologist provides the counseling and consults with the pediatrician, SHE is the one who prescribes his medication and ultimately is managing his care.




answers from Chicago on

Thanks for asking this. Reading your post I swear I was reading about my daughter! She's six and everything you mentioned we are going through with our daughter. My Mom suggested a few weeks ago that she thought my kid had alot of ADHD symptoms and we've been talking about making a doctor's appointment and also looking into having her evaluated at school. I am so interested in the responses you get.
Thanks again and good luck.



answers from Tyler on

Our family has been challenged by this condition as well. We worked with our daughter's teacher and her pediatrician. Her pediatrician gave us evaluation forms to be filled out independently by her teacher and each parent. He used the information provided by the answers to the questions on the forms in addition to meeting with us and our child to consider his diagnosis. Upon reaching the conclusion of ADHD he was helpful in giving us information for treatment options and resources. Check out these two books by Kathleen Nadeau: Learning How to Slow Down and Pay Attention and Understanding Girls With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Best wishes:)


answers from Dallas on

I would see a pediatric neuropsychologist first for testing. They are usually not biased and if your child needs meds will refer you


answers from St. Louis on

I don't for the life of me understand why anyone allows pediatricians to diagnose. Sure they can but they have a lot more false positives and even when they are correct they don't know what each reaction means to each child.

I would never tell anyone to see anything but a child psychologist for diagnosis and treatment. These are the only types of drugs they work with so when something is just not quite right they can change things quicker than a pediatrician can. I had a lot of friends complain that their pediatrician told them different symptoms are just the norm and suck it up when they actually indicated an intolerance to a specific med where there a ten other meds that will do the same thing without the reaction.

So I am saying see a child psychologist regardless of what your pediatrician may say.



answers from Norfolk on

When I got my son tested we went through his pediatrician and she sent us to a psychologist to aid in diagnosis and med treatment. We saw the psychologist once to do an initail eval and then she did testing. I saw her once to get the test results and again brought all the information to his doctor. His doctor takes care of all his meds and any questions I have. I was not impressed with the psychologist since she did not want to diagnosis him at such a young age. (he was 5) It did take time to see her as her schedule was pretty full. I would not wait if your daughter is having problems, it will take time to get her diagnosed.

She sounds alot like my son. He would get very frusterated at school and it all came out at home in temper tantrums and attitude. The change in him since his meds have been wonderful and makes him easier to deal with even when he is not on them. I used to think that although ADHD was a true diagnosis that I would never put my child on meds but at 5 there were only a few things to do to get his focus better and those did not help. Now that he is 7 we are finding more ways to help. Good luck getting help with your daughter.



answers from Dallas on

I suspected it too with my daughter. I called insurance co & they referred me to DR Rios in flower mound. He is a pedi behavior development spec. Its the best thing we ever did. Turns out she has dyslexia not ADD. She is in 4th grade & we struggled since 1st trying to figure it out. I wld definately have her tested by a spec before you medicate her. Good luck:)

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