Children's Health

Could It Be ADHD?

Dr. P. Alex Mabe
Written by Dr. P. Alex Mabe

Could it be ADHD?
Does your child move around constantly, get bored quickly or have trouble following instructions and completing tasks? While it’s normal for children to sometimes forget homework, daydream or fidget at the dinner table, sometimes this inattention or hyperactivity can be a sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is one of the most common childhood brain disorders: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 10 children and teens have been diagnosed with the disorder by a health care provider. Boys were about twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD, according to the 2015 CDC report. If you’re considering having your child evaluated for ADHD, you may want more information about what’s typically involved in a diagnosis.

Diagnosing ADHD in children
ADHD can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms usually appear between ages 3 and 6 and will vary from person to person, making it unclear what is normal. The average age of diagnosis for children with ADHD is 7, but it can be diagnosed at any time, including in adolescence.

“Many children might have some of the symptoms that are associated with ADHD,” said Dr. P. Alex Mabe, chief of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at Augusta Health, “but many of these children do not experience a significant impairment caused by these symptoms.”

“In considering the diagnosis of ADHD, it is important to remember that it is a condition that involves a pattern of behavior that is extreme for the general population.”

Dr. Mabe also serves as director of the ADHD Program within the Child, Adolescent and Family Psychiatry Division at Augusta Health – the health system that operates Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

Sometimes there are other factors in a child’s life that may trigger ADHD-like behaviors. Before diagnosing ADHD, the pediatrician or mental health specialist will try to rule out other possibilities, including:

  • A significant and sudden change that may be affecting their behavior (divorce, death in family)
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Hearing or vision problems
  • Learning disabilities
  • Medical problems affecting thinking and behavior
  • Middle ear infection causing hearing problems

When looking into the possibility of ADHD, a pediatrician or mental health specialist will look for symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. See “Looking for ADHD” for the behaviors that indicate ADHD.

Work with your child’s school
Partnering with your child’s school during and after diagnosis is important. His or her teacher may be a valuable source for behavior reports that can be helpful in evaluating your child for ADHD.

After diagnosis, if special education services are needed (and your child is eligible) the school district will work with you to develop an “individualized education program.” Children with ADHD are capable of appropriate classroom behavior, but need clear expectations and structure – this plan can help create that. Communicating effectively with the school and teachers can make a big difference for your child and his or her education.

* CDC, Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2012.

Signs of ADHD in children
Wondering if your child’s hyperactive behavior is out of the norm? When looking into the possibility of ADHD, a pediatrician or mental health specialist will look for symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that are present in multiple settings:

Inattention

  • Easily distracted
  • Unfocused or “spaced out”
  • Appears not to listen when spoken to

Hyperactivity

  • Constantly in motion
  • Talks excessively
  • Difficulty relaxing

Impulsivity

  • Acts without thinking
  • Blurts out answers
  • May have angry outbursts or temper tantrums

If you’re wondering if your child’s behavior is indicative of ADHD, talk to your child’s pediatrician to begin the evaluation process. Call 706-721-6597 or visit augustahealth.org/adhd to schedule your appointment today.

About the author

Dr. P. Alex Mabe

Dr. P. Alex Mabe

Dr. Mabe is the Chief of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at GRHealth. He also serves as director of the ADHD Program within the Child, Adolescent and Family Psychiatry Division at GRHealth – the health system that operates Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

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