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Frequently Asked Questions

What is ADHD?

There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other diagnoses, like anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms and even overlap with ADHD.

We like to think about ADHD like this:

It’s not that a child with ADHD cannot pay attention. It is that he/she has extreme attention and is paying attention to EVERYTHING.  The trouble is focusing on the task at hand. 

When consulting professionals to determine if your child has ADHD, the following criteria from the Diagnostical Statistical Manual V are considered.

DSM-5 DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA FOR ADHD

Must meet criteria for Inattention, Hyperactivity/Impulsivity, or Both
1. Inattention
17 and younger: Six or more of these symptoms must be present for at least 6 months, be
inconsistent with the child’s developmental level, and have a negative effect on their social
and academic activities. To be endorsed, the following must occur “often”:
a. Fails to pay close attention to details
b. Has trouble sustaining attention
c. Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to directly
d. Fails to follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or chores
e. Has trouble getting organized
f. Avoids or dislikes doing things that require sustained focus/thinking
g. Loses things frequently
h. Easily distracted by other things
i. Forgets things
2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
Six or more of these symptoms must be present for at least 6 months, be inconsistent with
the child’s developmental level, and have a negative effect on their social and academic
activities. To be endorsed, the following must occur “often”:
a. Fidgets with hands/feet or squirms in chair
b. Frequently leaves chair when seating is expected
c. Runs or climbs excessively
d. Trouble playing/engaging in activities quietly
e. Acts “on the go” and as if “driven by a motor”
f. Talks excessively
g. Blurts out answers before questions are completed
h. Trouble waiting or taking turns
i. Interrupts or intrudes on what others are doing
ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Presentation (ADHD-PI)
ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation (ADHD-PHI)
ADHD Combined Presentation (Inattentive & Hyperactive-Impulsive) (ADHD-C)
Specify if:
Mild: Six or only slightly more symptoms are endorsed and impairment in social or school
functioning is minor
Moderate: Symptoms or impairment is between mild and severe
Severe: (Many symptoms are above required 6 are endorsed and/or symptoms are severe;
impairment in social or school functioning is severe)

(Source: American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5),
Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association)

My child gets very nervous before tests at school. How can I help my child deal with the anxiety she experiences?

Everyone has probably told their child to take a deep breath at some point in time but have you told your child why? Explain to your child that when she gets nervous before a test her brain is probably not getting enough oxygen because she is holding her breath without even realizing it! Make sure to explain that when her brain doesn’t get enough oxygen she can’t think clearly. Suggest to your child that she takes a couple of deep breaths before a test to get that oxygen flowing back to her brain.

My child is always putting himself down. It is heartbreaking and I feel so helpless, what can I do?

Establish a no put-down policy. Your child probably already knows that he/she isn’t allowed to put siblings or friends down, but has never considered how hurtful it is to turn negativity onto him/herself. For your no put-down policy, explain that for every put down you hear, your child has to give a compliment to that person (even if that person is him/herself!). Then give your child an extra compliment for good measure! The constant positivity is bound to rub off on your child and at the very least, will demonstrate that you believe in him/her.

Each year my child starts the year off strong with good intentions but then his motivation level drops and his grades go down. What can I do to help him keep his strong start?

Remember ADHD is all about what is stimulating to the brain and once the novelty of a new school year wears off the motivation level tends to drop too. Have a conversation with your child so you can be sure he/she has an understanding of why this sometimes happens! One of the best things you can do is ask your child what he thinks he can do differently this year. Often times this pattern repeats itself because there was never a pause to try and figure out what to do differently. This entails having a plan of action not just saying this time will be different. Ask your child if he can acknowledge when his motivation level is dipping and ask for help? Do incentives work well? Ask your child what he thinks you can do to be supportive rather than a nagging parent. Offer suggestions to your child only after he has analyzed the situation himself.

My child is very creative and loves school projects. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always clearly understand the requirements and does not score very highly, despite his hard work. How can I help him?

It is heartbreaking for a parent to see their child’s hard work go unrewarded and it can be crushing to a child’s self-esteem. Contact your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year and be honest about your son’s difficulties. Highlight his desire to achieve, his creative energy and the vast, yet misdirected effort he has put into projects in the past. Your child’s teacher may offer to review the directions with your child or may provide you with the directions so you can assist your son. Always ask your child if the teacher handed out a rubric. Rubrics are fantastic for the ADHD brain because they are specific and easy to follow. Rubrics will show you and your child exactly what is expected and how the project will be graded.

My child’s pediatrician recommended we try medication to treat his ADHD. We are concerned about the side effects we often hear about. What should we do?

Side effects are certainly a valid concern and should be taken seriously. Educate yourself on the possible side effects and make sure you are comfortable with your pharmacist; he or she will be a great resource. If your child does experience side effects let your pediatrician know and ask yourself whether they are tolerable or if they are changing the quality of life. Have a plan in place for how you will keep track of positive impacts as well as side effects.  For example, use a calendar on your phone or have a notebook placed strategically and date and record any concerns

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