Developmental testing for ADHD: When is it needed & what are the treatments?

Developmental testing for ADHD: When is it needed & what are the treatments?
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Article By: Dr. Phillip Valmores, Pediatrician & Erika M. Graves, LCSW, Integrated Behavioral Health Clinician, Bon Secours Pediatrics of Mechanicsville

Not only do parents bring their children to their pediatrician when they are sick, but they also make appointments for behavior concerns. Parents often seek help from their pediatrician if they are having significant struggles with their child’s behavior at home or if they are not succeeding in school as expected.

As a pediatrician and clinical social worker, Dr. Valmores and Mrs. Graves share some basic information for parents about ADHD and when to have a talk with your pediatrician or care provider about screening your child for ADHD.

Recently, ADHD has become a hot topic as research is giving us more information and as more children are being diagnosed.

ADHD is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. To some degree these symptoms are common in all children. In others, they rise to the level of concern for parents, teachers, loved ones and others in the lives of children.

If your child has difficulty paying attention, is hyperactive and struggles with making impulsive decisions beyond what is expected of their age and development, you should speak to your pediatrician or care provider about being assessed for ADHD. It can be diagnosed as early as 4 years old.

Did you know that approximately 10 percent of school-age children have been diagnosed with ADHD?

There are numerous factors that can contribute to ADHD, but there is no clear cause. Research tells us some of these factors may be a child’s environment, genetic predisposition, head injuries, a trauma history, premature birth, and prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco use.

ADHD criteria is defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5) and can coexist with other diagnoses or behavior conditions in children. The criteria for ADHD is slightly varied based on a child’s age, but they all include the three principal symptoms we listed above - inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

In addition to having these symptoms, they must cause impaired functioning in more than one setting, i.e. at home, at school and even in the community. Many pediatricians and other care providers are able to diagnose ADHD in the office setting by having a conversation to gather information on many aspects of your child’s life and by using tools such as the Vanderbilt Assessment Scales and the Conner’s Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scales. They are simple questionnaires most often completed by parents and teachers and they help us determine whether or not ADHD is a valid diagnosis.

If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, your pediatrician or care provider will help you create a treatment plan. The treatment plan should be shared with teachers and anyone else who provides care to your child. This helps with consistency for your child but it also gives loved ones and teachers specific tools to best support your child.

Treating ADHD is different for every child and family.

The main treatments include behavior-based interventions, parenting skills training, neurofeedback, and studies are even showing that time outside in nature is a valid treatment ADHD and medication management. However, not every child who is diagnosed with ADHD requires medication therapy. In some cases a child’s ADHD may require additional support in school. In these cases, parents may want to request a meeting with their child’s teachers to explore additional services available through the school system.

Navigating the growing trends in child development and behavioral concerns can seem overwhelming for parents at times. We want to encourage you to have ongoing dialogue with your pediatrician or care provider about your child’s development and any behavior concerns you may have. This is how we can work together ensuring that our patients receive the best care possible.

Additional information, education and support for parents:

Tips for Parents

Nature and ADHD

Neurofeedback and ADHD

Types of Therapy and Questionnaire Example

Bon Secours Pediatrics of Mechanicsville is unique for treating ADHD in that we are able to provide on-the-spot referral and consultation services for our patient’s pediatric medical care and behavioral health care. We do this by having pediatricians, nurse navigators and a clinical social worker on staff at the site.