Diagnosing ADHD in children is often complicated as the symptoms can indicate another condition. Finding a clinician with experience diagnosing ADHD is important to ensure your child has the correct diagnosis and treatment plan.
The symptoms and signs of ADHD can vary hugely between children. Some children show classic signs of hyperactivity, while others seem quite calm but struggle immensely to pay attention and stay focussed on a task or at school. Other conditions such as dyslexia, thyroid dysfunction, behavioural issues and mood disorders can also cause some of the common symptoms and signs of ADHD.
These factors can make it hard for parents to know whether their child has ADHD or something else. It can be a very worrying and frustrating time when you suspect that something is different about your child – perhaps the school is telling you your child is behaving in different ways to other children, but yet it isn’t clear what help they need and who is best suited to provide that help.
Your GP or a mental health professional, such as a Psychiatrist is the best place to start for any parent unsure if their child has ADHD. A child and adolescent psychiatrist will see hundreds of children yearly who have ADHD and can rule a diagnosis in or out and make recommendations for further assessments and treatment.
Children with ADHD often get labelled unfairly as being naughty, trouble makers or daydreamers. Often their behaviours can be extremely frustrating for parents and teachers, and the child may experience little praise and a great deal of ‘telling off’.
Understandably, these behaviours will be difficult for adults to manage and tolerate. For the child, constantly being told off or being told you are somehow failing can be hugely detrimental to self-confidence and self-esteem.
Book a private ADHD assessment
A robust and comprehensive assessment of ADHD is key. ADHD is a ‘lifelong’ and pervasive condition, so ensuring you see an expert in the field is crucial to understanding the right treatment that will work for your child.
Before the appointment
You and your child’s school will be sent a full range of questionnaires and psychometrics, all evidence-based and proven to diagnose ADHD accurately. This information gathering is a crucial step in the diagnostic procedure – often parents are surprised by how much depth our clinicians go into, however, it is key to making sure that the correct diagnosis is given. If your child is old enough we will also ask them to complete some forms, our clinicians will want to know how your child feels about any difficulties they are experiencing.
During the assessment
You and your child will meet with a senior clinician for around two hours. You will be asked lots of questions about your child and their development. You may want to take some notes of areas of concern or key milestones for your child.
The clinician will have lots of experience diagnosing ADHD and will also be looking at whether any other conditions would better explain the symptoms you are concerned about. Diagnosing ‘co-morbidities’ (other mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety) is a key part of the assessment. The clinician will include any diagnoses or further actions needed in their report. Where possible, the clinician may be able to tell you in the appointment whether your child has ADHD. They will then discuss treatment recommendations and advise you on the next steps.
After the assessment
You will receive a full and comprehensive report detailing the diagnosis, where one can be made, any further assessments recommended for your child, and treatment plans.
Many parents wish to return to the NHS for medication if this treatment is advised. We always ask parents to discuss their options with their local GP before seeking a private assessment. ADHD medications are controlled drugs, and only those with specialist training can initiate them. It may be that you will need to continue to see the psychiatrist privately until the medication is stabilised before your GP can take over prescribing. Not all GPs are happy to continue prescribing, so we always advise discussing this before commencing treatment.