The symptoms of ADHD typically appear between the ages of 3 and 6. Parents may notice that their child loses interest in activities sooner than other children his age, or that he seems “out of control” much of the time.
Teachers may be the first to notice
In some cases, teachers may be the first to notice the signs of ADHD, as many symptoms may be more apparent in a school setting. Because ADHD runs in families, parents may not realize that what seems typical to them has an underlying disorder. In some cases, adults realize for the first time that they have struggled with ADHD themselves at the time that their child is diagnosed.
Steps of a comprehensive evaluation
Diagnosing ADHD requires a thorough, comprehensive evaluation of your child’s health and behavior. There is no simple test for ADHD. A good first step to find out if your child has a disorder is a visit to a pediatrician. The process may also begin with a school psychologist. If needed, you may choose to work with a mental health specialist with experience in ADHD.
A doctor will begin with a thorough checkup to identify whether there are other medical problems, such as hearing or vision problems, undetected seizures, allergies, thyroid problems, or other health issues that may look like ADHD.
The next steps are taking a thorough history of your child’s health and behavior by talking with you and your child and, importantly, teachers and others closely involved in your child’s life. The doctor will also observe your child closely, preferably in multiple settings, and work with you to rate your child’s behavior on several scales in order to understand the severity and frequency of the symptoms. Once your doctor has a complete view of your child’s health and behavior, he will be able to determine whether to diagnose your child with ADHD.