How to Prevent Misdiagnosis of ADHD in Children

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When you see a child bouncing off the walls when he’s supposed to be learning, what do you think? If you’re like most people, some doctors included, you jump straight to ADHD. And unfortunately, that’s how so many kids get misdiagnosed with ADHD when they actually have another underlying disorder.

Symptoms of ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD are largely behavioral. In order to receive a diagnosis, children need to exhibit at least 6 out of 9 symptoms in at least two settings for six months or more.

The requirements for the diagnosis help ensure that the children being diagnosed are actually have an issue rather than going through a phase. But the problem comes in when we look at the symptoms that can be similar to symptoms of other disorders.

The symptoms include things like fidgeting, leaving their seat in class, running and climbing at inappropriate times, often forgetful and dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort. There are two types of ADHD, so there are two lists of 9 symptoms to review. Click here to view both lists.

How ADHD is misdiagnosed

A child with ADHD has trouble focusing, and the symptoms all reflect that. But here’s the thing: Children can behave this way for a variety of reasons.

If a child is exhibiting 6 out of 9 symptoms for six months or more, it’s a sign of a problem – but that problem may not be ADHD. For example, a child with an Auditory Processing Disorder may also exhibit the same symptoms. The child would have trouble learning and focusing in class because he doesn’t process sound in the same way as other people. If you think about it, it’s clear to see why this child may exhibit some of the same symptoms as a child with ADHD.

How to prevent misdiagnosis of ADHD in children

If you want to be sure you’re addressing your child’s real issue, you’ll want to prevent the misdiagnosis of ADHD. Here are a few ways you can do that.

  1. Educate yourself – Find out what ADHD is and what it isn’t. The disorders most commonly misdiagnosed as ADHD include bipolar disorder, autism, low blood sugar, sensory processing disorders (auditory and sensory) sleep disorders and hearing problems.
  2. Rule out other issues – Now that you know what issues could lead to a misdiagnosis, ask your doctor to rule them out before making an ADHD diagnosis. There are tests for each disorder that could help rule it out and give you peace of mind that your child is being treated properly.
  3. Ask for a second opinion – If your doctor refuses to rule out other conditions through testing, ask for a second opinion. Your child’s health is too important to leave to one person’s ego, so ask another doctor to weigh in on the facts. It’s always good to get a second pair of eyes on a problem.
  4. Remember to be your child’s advocate – If your child’s behavior indicates ADHD, there’s probably an issue that needs treatment. It may very well be ADHD, but you’ll want to be sure before you start her on any medications. Imagine spending years medicating for a condition your child doesn’t have. Instead, you could be treating the underlying cause of those behaviors.

When there’s a problem, especially with your child’s behavior, it’s natural to want a quick fix. But unfortunately, the quickest answer isn’t always the right one. If your child seems to have ADHD, talk to your doctor about other possibilities before she comes to a diagnosis. If it turns out to truly be ADHD, at least you can be certain that’s what you’re dealing with.

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