Is It ADHD or Something Else?

Consider these factors to help determine what is causing your child's attention or hyperactivity problem.

By Kristin Stanberry

Are you preparing to have your child evaluated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD)? If so, you may be aware that there is currently no medical test available to diagnose the condition. Much of your child's assessment will be based on information you, your spouse, caregivers, and teachers provide. You will be asked specific questions about your child's health, behavior, and school performance. Your answers will greatly assist the doctor in making a correct diagnosis.

To prepare for the evaluation, take a holistic (whole) view of your child. ADHD can cause behavior that appears inattentive, impulsive, or hyperactive - or any combination of these. But there are many other conditions and situations that can cause behavior that "looks like" ADHD. When you give the doctor a holistic view of your child, he may then pinpoint problems other than ADHD. Below are some factors to think about before you see the doctor.

General Health

Sleeping Habits

An over-tired child may have trouble staying awake and focused. Ask yourself these questions:

Home Environment

Your Culture

Does your child come from a culture different from that of her teacher and classmates? If so, and if her teacher has expressed concern about her behavior, you may want to help the teacher understand the attitudes and accepted behaviors of your culture.

Mood and Emotions

Does your child seem to worry more than other kids his age? Does he have "nervous habits," like biting his nails? Or, have you noticed he seems to be unusually sad, angry, or withdrawn? If there is extreme stress in your household, it may affect your child's emotions. Stress can come in the form of divorce, remarriage, a new baby, fighting, or a death in the family. Does your child often complain about his school, teacher, or classmates? Or, does he refuse to talk to you about school? Either way, he may be feeling stressed about people and situations at school.

School Performance

Has your child's teacher reported behavior, performance, or attention problems in the classroom? If so, ask to meet with her to:

Be an Expert About Your Child

As you consider the factors described above, you may discover some specific problems. For each problem, what action could you take? Here are some options:

Any information you share will help the doctor determine whether ADHD or perhaps another condition is at the root of the problem. As you seek help for your child, remember your input is valuable to all the professionals you encounter.

Kristin Stanberry

writer and editor for Schwab Learning, provides information, insight, strategies, and support for parents whose children have LD and ADHD. She combines a professional background developing consumer health and wellness publications with her personal experience of coaching family members with learning and behavior problems.

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.