Middle school began for Alexandra with a thud. What should have been an exciting time of growth and new freedoms became a challenging time of frustration and worry. She is a really smart kid. And since she skipped kindergarten Harold and I wondered if she wasn’t developmentally ready for middle school independence. But she’s also disorganized, forgetful, fidgety, and a bit impulsive. When the first quarter ended and she had a D in two classes we knew the problem was bigger than we could handle without help. We knew something had to give. These four steps are things you can do if you think your child has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.
Testing is the first step if you expect your child has ADHD. Your primary care physician (PCP), a licensed psychologist, or a psychiatrist may be able to administer the assessment. Call your child’s PCP to schedule testing or to get a referral to a testing site.
You can also check with a local university and ask if they have a Graduate School of Psychology. Testing in a graduate research project can be very low cost or free. Alexandra was “paid” a store gift card when she was tested with the University of Louisville’s RACER Lab. We also received a free copy of the entire report for our records and to share with her school.
The testing process will include your child, you, any other parents or caregivers who provide daily care for your child, and your child’s teacher or school. Because the process is involved it may take a while to get an appointment for testing. Be patient and don’t give up.
I know this can be a difficult time. Especially if your child’s school has made the recommendation that he needs to be evaluated. It can feel like your child is being singled out or labeled in a way that makes every issue her fault. I get it.
But keep in mind that if your child does have ADHD the problems you’re experiencing won’t just disappear. When you have a diagnosis, things that once frustrated you may start to make sense. You will begin to see the behaviors and challenges that cause concern at school and at home in a different light.
ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders diagnosed in children and adolescents. There are three different types of ADHD: inattentive (can’t stay focused), hyperactive/impulsive type (can’t sit still), and a combined type where all symptoms are present. The type of ADHD your child has is important for the next step in determining the best treatment.
Select a Treatment Plan
Medication. It’s the elephant in the room so let’s just get it out of the way. Stimulant medications are very often prescribed and have been highly effective in reducing the symptoms of ADHD for decades. Giving a hyperactive child a stimulant seems oxymoronic, but the medication stimulates certain parts of the child’s brain, not their body.
It is important to know that medication does affect brain functions. Non-stimulant medications can be given if the child does not respond well to the stimulants.
But remember the final decision for treatment is up to you. You don’t have to medicate your child. Behavioral Therapy and Parenting Training are also common treatments, many times in conjunction with medication.
We opted not to medicate Alexandra. As an elite athlete with Olympics dreams we did not want to start a treatment regimen she would one day have to change. Stimulant drugs are not allowed in professional sports. So, yeah. You must choose a treatment plan that works for your family.
Meet With School Staff
Many times ADHD is suspected or identified at school, based upon behavior or grading challenges. If this is the case for you, it will feel like you are being pushed to make the decisions others want, but remember you are your child’s number one advocate.
Once you have chosen your treatment plan, schedule an appointment to meet with your child’s school. You will want to have the following members of the staff present:
- the principal
- the guidance counselor
- your child’s teacher
- the IEP/student services coordinator
It is vitally important to have all these participants present. You want to understand the school or district’s process for implementing an IEP, the accommodations available to your child, the monitoring and check-in process, and how the team will intervene when your child needs to be accommodated.
Accommodations are the special conditions your child is given because he/she has ADHD. Alexandra is allowed to situate herself in a comfortable spot in the room as long as she is not disruptive and she is granted 1.5 times the given time for tests and exams if needed. Your child’s accommodations will be specific to his/her needs and when properly administered should reduce the number of concerns in the classroom.
Now that you know the steps, will you have your child tested?