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does my child have adhd

Does my child have ADHD?

It might help to explain what ADHD stands for. ADHD stands for ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’. Some people experience the inattentive side of ADHD – they are the children who find it difficult to focus and can appear dreamy.  Other people experience the hyperactivity side of ADHD which tends to express itself as behavioural problems. 

Many parents are not aware their child is living with ADHD until really serious behaviours show up in the teen years. This is because the symptoms of ADHD are not widely understood, and ADHD presents differently in each child (although there are some common symptoms).  And as a result, many children simply are not diagnosed with ADHD (in fact there are also a whole lot of adults out there in the world who have undiagnosed ADHD).

Children with ADHD are at higher risk of mental illnesses, behavioural problems and drug and alcohol addiction when they reach puberty. But the research also shows that children who are diagnosed and treated for their ADHD before puberty are more likely to stay on track afterwards.  

The children at highest risk of not getting the support they need are those on the inattentive side of ADHD – (which used to be called Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD).  The inattentive type of ADHD children are not necessarily disruptive or challenging; they’re usually kids who struggle with focusing and appear dreamy or lost in their own world a lot. 

The children who tend to get diagnosed fairly easily are the ones who present strongly with hyperactivity – they can appear highly energised, oppositional, spirited and socially difficult.  Typically, these children are disruptive at school and teachers will also flag concerns with parents. 

ADHD is a neurological disorder that requires a medical assessment and a formal diagnosis by a medical professional. 

If you child is diagnosed with ADHD, they will need a specific plan tailored to their individual needs. 

But first, you need to know if your child actually has the disorder. 

Here are some behaviours that may suggest ADHD in your child: – 

  • Tantrums that are severe and ongoing (longer than five minutes) – parents may start to avoid public places or social interactions or become frightened of their child.
  • Stressful or challenging social interactions with other children – controlling, domineering behaviours from your child.  
  • Poor school engagement or academic progress – ADHD has nothing to do with IQ – some of the brightest kids have ADHD but struggle to perform well at school because of their symptoms.
  • Trouble following instructions (relative to their peer group)
  • Oppositional behaviour – often. 
  • Excessive talking and interrupting without awareness of others.
  • Being argumentative and blaming of other people or things and objects when hurt or disappointed. Back chatting.
  • Inability to focus and stay on task – e.g. taking three times as long to eat their dinner as other family members.
  • Rage or explosion when the child does not get their own way or is told “no”.
  • Parents having a sense of “walking on eggshells” for fear of explosions or tantrums.
  • Dreamy or appears distant – seems to have trouble staying “present”.

Things you can do if you suspect there is something wrong

  1. Visit your GP and raise your concerns.  Ask for a referral to a Developmental Paediatrician if your child is under 12.  If your child is over 12 then ask for a referral to a Child Psychiatrist.     

Please note this must be a “Developmental” Paediatrician.  Developmental Paediatricians are trained to assess and work with neurological disorders.

The reason I suggest a Child Psychiatrist (if the child is over 12) is because children with ADHD are also at risk of other mental illnesses like anxiety and depression which typically show up at the onset of puberty. It is therefore more efficient to work with a Child Psychiatrist who will help your teen manage all aspects of their mental health.

  • It can take between 3-6 months to get in to see some Developmental Paediatricians.  Ask to be put on the cancellation list. Often appointments come up sooner if you are prepared to be flexible. This is the same for Child Psychiatrists.
  • If both parents are not in agreement about the assessment, visit a Family Therapist who specialises in this work. They will be able to give you their professional opinion after carefully assessing other potential causes of the behaviour. There are some situations where behaviour looks like ADHD but it’s actually about family dynamics, conflict in the home, or unhelpful parenting styles. 

Steps to take if your child has received a diagnosis of ADHD.

Many parents are confused about which professional to see and when.  Here is a diagram to help you identify which professional might be the right one for your situation.

  • A Family Therapist will support parents to take back parenting control and to build confidence. 
  • A Family Therapist will help both parents get onto the same parenting page.
  • A Family Therapist will help repair relationships (including sibling relationships) which are often strained and under duress by the time a child is diagnosed with ADHD.
  • A Family Therapist will support parents and other family members.
  • A Family Therapist will work with the teachers/school to support your child socially and academically.
  • A Family Therapist will connect you with other professionals depending on the age and needs of your child but remain as your over-arching family therapist to help you all stay connected and mentally well.

Families where there is a child with ADHD are likely to be more stressed than other families. And often the parent’s relationship is deeply impacted. That’s why I strongly recommend parents access help from any or all of the following: –

  • Join a support group online – there are lots of them around.
  • Do a parenting course – N.B.  this should be a course specific for parenting children with ADHD. There are online courses and courses you can do in person. 
  • Attend couples counselling

It is worth noting that because there is a strong genetic link, it is highly likely that one of the parents of a child with ADHD will also be living with ADHD (often undiagnosed).  This can further stress the family as all people with ADHD get activated very easily which impacts relationships. Sometimes I also recommend that parents are assessed for ADHD.  

It is important that all members of the family seek support and professional help which will give your child or teen a far greater chance of staying on track and being well connected to a stable, healthy family.

Please get in touch on 07757 532767 or contact us through our website for an informal chat.