Q&A: Does Your School-Aged Child Have ADHD?

A pediatrician answers common questions from parents

Q&A: Does Your School-Aged Child Have ADHD?

If your child is having trouble focusing on schoolwork or they can’t seem to sit still and pay attention, you want to know how to help.

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As a parent, you might wonder: Are they problems that can resolve as your child matures, or could they be signs of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

While ADHD is increasingly common in children in the U.S., other conditions or issues can share some of the same symptoms, says pediatrician Hanan Nashed, MD. She answers common questions parents ask her about ADHD. 

Q: What exactly is ADHD?

A: ADHD is a medical condition that can make it difficult to sit still, focus and pay attention, as well as finish tasks.

It comes in two different categories: hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention. Some children are either hyperactive or  lacking in their ability to pay  attention while others have characteristics of both categories combined..

Q: My child is having problems concentrating. How can I tell if he has ADHD?

A: Parents sometimes wonder if their child has ADHD based on their observations and sometimes those of teachers as well.

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To help you decide if your child has ADHD or some sort of behavior/attention problem, consider the following questions:

  • Does your child stay on task; if you ask him to do something with more than two steps, can he follow through?
  • Does he have problems winding down enough to fall asleep at night?
  • Does he interact well with other children?
  • Can he focus when he sits down to do homework?
  • Does he fidget a lot or is he constantly moving?
  • Does he wait his turn when talking or does he frequently interrupt or spout answers?
  • Does he lose things a lot?

Q: Are there other characteristics that distinguish ADHD?

A: First, to diagnose ADHD, we must see the behavior in different settings. If a child shows signs at home and school or daycare and home, it is more indicative of ADHD.

Also, if the concerning behavior has lasted longer than six months, that’s another sign.

We also consider the child’s age. Generally, it starts at a younger age, usually before age 12.

Q: How prevalent is the issue?

A: Studies show that 8 to 10 percent of children ages 4 to 17 have ADHD. That has doubled in recent years. It also manifests about twice as much in boys as in girls.

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Q: Are there other conditions that can look like ADHD?

A: Absolutely. Learning disabilities can look like inattentive behavior, depression and anxiety disorders. And sometimes, these conditions can co-exist with ADHD.

Q: What is the process for evaluating a child for ADHD?

A: Parents who are concerned about their kids having ADHD should talk to their pediatrician. The sooner the diagnosis is made, the better the outcome.

Keep in mind that there is no simple test that can diagnose ADHD. The process involves a battery of testing and questions and a psychological evaluation too.

When it comes to treatment, we often recommend medications and behavioral therapy for the best outcome.

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