It seems that in the last ten years it has become almost too easy and quick to diagnose ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in children presenting hyperactive and /or impulsive traits and lack of attention. It is alarming that the “diagnosis” is sometimes made up by people who are not qualified to do this.
Parents should be aware that ADD/ADHD is not an attitude but a specific neuro behavioural condition of which some of the symptoms are chronic.
ADD/ADHD may be diagnosed only at completion of a full comprehensive medical, neuro psychological and social evaluation by a team of qualified and experienced specialists. The professionals who can complete a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD are: clinical / educational psychologists (and trained counsellors), trained physicians and psychiatrists.
Speech Therapists may also be involved in the assessment.
ADD and ADHD are usually diagnosed during primary school years, because the child may struggle to adjust and cope with the school rules and requests; the symptoms are well visible at school and teachers can easily notice if the child has academic or behavioural difficulties. In case of any concern, although they can have a lot of experience with ADD/ADHD children and play a very important role in the assessment and intervention process, teachers should always contact parents and speak to a psychologist.
The diagnostic protocol should include: medical examinations, observation and interaction with the child in different environments, standardised psychometric measure of cognitive skills and executive functions, emotional and social evaluation of the child and family’s life, questionnaires and screenings filled in by parents, caregivers and teachers.
There are differential medical and mental conditions whose symptoms are very similar to the ones of ADD/ADHD but whose treatment plan and prognosis may be very different, such as specific Medical Conditions, Intellectual Disability, Pervasive Developmetal Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Mood Disorders, Emotional Distress, Auditory Processing Disorders and many others.
If your child seems inattentive, struggles to focus, is forgetful or presents hyperactive or impulsive traits, do not ignore these signs, do not blame him for his attitude and behaviour and do not give him any medication, if not prescribed by qualified physicians.
Ask for a professional full comprehensive assessment aimed at ruling out differential diagnosis, understanding your child’ specific social-psychological-physical needs and providing the appropriate treatment.