Lately, I’ve had several messages asking, “How do I start?” “I know my kiddo needs help, but I don’t know where to start.” These are very good questions, and since several of you have asked, I bet there are several with the same question who are afraid to send that message.
The answer is quite simple. To your pediatrician/family doctor. The same one who told you that your child was “absolutely perfect” during their last well child check. You see, we get 30 minutes total to evaluate your child’s vaccine status, growth and development, school performance, behavior concerns, nutrition, and answer the many questions you’ve come up with over the course of the last year. If you don’t bring up behavior/attention concerns, we aren’t going to bring it up either. Most kiddos are pretty bouncy in the 4×4 exam room and have a lot to say, so if you don’t bring it up, neither will we. This is another reason why waiting for your kiddos well visit to discuss behavior concerns is not the best idea either. There’s a lot to cover during that visit. The best thing to do is to schedule a visit with your pediatrician to spend your appointment slot discussing your concerns about your child. It is really way more important than “Oh, by the way,” as the doctor is walking out of the door.
There are forms that both parents and your child’s teacher should complete. These ask questions about your child like “Can they sit still in a chair when staying seated is expected?”, “Do they talk nonstop?,” “Do they have trouble staying in their own space?” among many, many other questions. It is a requirement to have multiple people who interact with the child in multiple environments to complete the forms to make sure that the issue is actually with the CHILD and not with one particular PARENT or a specific ENVIRONMENT. These forms are returned to the physician to review, and then the parents have a follow up appointment with the physician to discuss the results of the forms. So, it’s actually entirely possible to THINK that your child has ADHD and be told that, in fact, there is an issue with x, y, or z, which could be a parenting style, a learning disability, or many other things.
After a formal diagnosis is made, treatment options are then discussed. I feel that this is the step that most parents are most fearful of, and why most people hold out and wait until the last possible moment to get a formal diagnosis. Remember, you are the parent, and in this country, you have the right to choose the treatment plan for your child. READ: An ADHD diagnosis does NOT mean that you immediately have to give your child medication. Also READ: Medication is not the enemy and it is not failure on your part or your child’s. (That conversation deserves its own post.) Both behavior modification therapy AND medication are both recommended in conjunction by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatricians are well aware of your reservations (the last momma in their office was also terrified) and will help you work through the best option for you and your kiddo. Here is a link to the CDC that discusses behavior therapy for kids and their parents, classroom modification, medications, and parenting tips. It is a great starting place.
I’ve heard many parents and patients say that they don’t want their child to have a “label.” In fact, it’s not a label, it’s a diagnosis. My experience with this was quite different with my kiddos. Instead of the proper label/diagnosis of “ADHD,” they were receiving labels they didn’t deserve like “bad kid” or “kid that won’t stay in their seat.” Following their diagnosis, there were teachers who were a lot more willing to help them and work with them, rather than place judgmental and “mean” labels on them.
As you guys know, this is a huge passion of mine, and I am more than happy to answer any questions about our experience with diagnosis and treatment. Since I am not your kiddos’ doctor, I won’t recommend any treatment for them. I will tell you what has worked for us, but the specific treatment plan for your kiddo is a decision to be made between parents and pediatrician.