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Diagnosing ADHD: Getting It Right From The Start

Posted Apr 10 2010 4:21am

Earlier this week, I started a little controversy among our readers about Diagnosing ADHD and how important it really is to have the diagnosis.  The responses that came in were quite incredible, and nothing short of what I expected for a condition that is still greatly misunderstood by many (not our readers of course).

I am still reading (and re-reading) the comments to really absorb the different perspectives of ADHD, and getting diagnosed.

One thing to me is clear:  Getting the right diagnosis is critical, but it is only a first step!  For the record, I always advocate to my clients and anyone I speak to that seeing a professional – an expert who understands ADHD, children, and development – is of the utmost importance when you don’t know what’s going on.

Let me say that again (it was a mouthful):  Getting the right diagnosis, from the right* person is the most important first step.

But it’s ONLY a first step because there is so much else going on.  The diagnosis can change, and it can be complicated.  In my years of working with children and families, I just don’t know how an accurate diagnosis is made in one 15-minute appointment when there is clearly so much to consider.

Here’s just a taste of what makes the diagnosis so difficult to make:

  1. Bad Information:  There is a LOT of bad information that leads to great misunderstanding about what ADHD is and what it is not.
  2. Signs & Symptoms: As Dr. Kane mentioned in our previous post, there are over 50 other conditions that can mimic ADHD.  (Not to mention the things that can complicate what might or might not be ADHD).
  3. One Size Does NOT Fit All: ADHD is going to be different for almost everyone with the condition.  There is NO one right answer…it’s about personal choice (as pointed out by colleague and friend Tara McGillicuddy ).
  4. Life Happens: One cannot overlook the dramatic impact and influence that life has upon symptoms of ADHD.  We cannot just attribute everything to the condition…we MUST look at what is going on in a person’s life.
  5. Explanation NOT Excuse: ADHD (or the right diagnosis) can help explain why a person acts, behaves, or just is a certain way.  But it does NOT define them, and it should NEVER be used as an excuse.

Yes…there are plenty more complications to getting the diagnosis right.  And that’s why I call it a good and important (critical) first step!

So what’s this all about then?

As I mentioned, it is more important to me (in my humble opinion) that once we have a working diagnosis or understanding of who the person is, we focus on their unique challenges and NOT the diagnosis.

Sometimes we get it right.  Sometimes we get it wrong.  But behavior and our action / success is a good indication of what is going on.  I’ve said before that bad behavior is often a cry for help.  Having a bad attitude is often a way of getting attention when we can’t find the words to say what we really want.

No matter how you cut it…it’s just not as a straightforward as we’d like it to be.  And that’s the POINT!  As a parent of a child with ADHD, you’ve got some great responsibilities.  Yes….it might be more than the “average” kid, but as one “different” child (now adult) to others…. I don’t want to be average.  I like standing out…and yes…I love causing a little controversy.

Additional Responsibilities:

  1. Get educated on ADHD / related conditions
  2. Advocate for your child
  3. Focus on their differences (not…”my child has ADHD”)
  4. Question everything (even me).
  5. Work with your child’s differences (not against them)
  6. Make it fun.

As hard as all of this sounds…all parents face this every single day.  The good news is that ADHD is NOT a life threatening condition.  It’s NOT the end of the world.  It is however…or could be…another challenge you must face.  But hopefully, with this information and the right supports in your life, you will know when to stand up and shout, and when to laugh it off.

At least I hope you can…

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