You have just returned from parent-teacher conferences, in a daze after your child's teacher uttered those four capital letters: ADHD. What do you do now? Some may recommend a visit your family practitioner or pediatrician. Our advice? Proceed with caution.
Good, Good Enough?
Although pediatricians are legally qualified to diagnose ADHD, they often times will refer you to a mental health specialist. It will be in your child's best interest to get as large a team as possible to diagnose your child; this will mean neurologists, psychologists, physicians, and the testimonies of teachers and other adults with whom the child comes into contact.
Pediatricians should be regarded at best as a good starting point to your child's ADHD diagnosis. As a doctor specializing in children's health, a pediatrician may or may not have the depth of knowledge required to assess a child for ADHD and rule out all other possible causes.
Because ADHD can look like so many other diseases, a thorough examination of the child and the family's health history will be required for diagnosis. Often, pediatricians are simply too busy or too inadequately prepared for this extensive testing.
Some pediatricians are quick to write a prescription, and then use the child's reaction to the drugs to gauge the diagnosis for ADHD. If your pediatrician says "I don't believe in ADHD" or "Yeah, sounds like ADHD. Here's a prescription, have a nice day!" run, don't walk, to a specialist who is willing to get to the bottom of it.
A good test: Ask your pediatrician about his experience with ADHD. If his verbal answer or body language gives any negative indication, don't be afraid to ask for a referral elsewhere. A large degree of your child's success will be dependent on how hard the adults around him are willing to work to help him.
Do Pediatricians Really Know?
The problem is that pediatricians are educated only to diagnose and treat common diseases. While it's true that the numbers of ADHD cases are growing (though the scales may be tipped by alarming rates of over diagnosis), the other diseases that ADHD looks like may not be so common. Since there is not a definitive ADHD test, and since diagnosis involves ruling out other disorders, pediatricians simply may not really know the full extent of diagnosing ADHD.
What Parents Can Do
For many parents, getting an accurate diagnosis for their child is a process of trial and error. Diagnosing ADHD has almost become more of an art than science, and many doctors disagree about what's right and what's wrong. There is a broad spectrum of causes of ADHD, of other diseases that look like ADHD, and treatment of ADHD. Your best for an accurate diagnosis is a team of clinicians who are enthusiastic about exhaustive testing of your child.
If your family is struggling with ADHD, and you are seeking alternatives to dangerous prescription drugs, consider natural supplements. Safe and natural, they have been shown to successfully reverse the symptoms of ADHD with zero negative side effects.
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