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Who Should Diagnose ADHD?
Q: I have four boys. I'm ADHD and I know that at least two of my sons have it. I'm having trouble getting them diagnosed. The teachers say the doctors have to test them, and then the doctors say the school has to do it. My oldest is in second grade. I'm starting to think it may be too late for him. Please help.
A: Take a deep breath, and let's start one step at a time. Keep in mind that it's never too late to help a child -- or an adult, for that matter -- who may have an attention deficit disorder. First, call the toll-free number for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD) at 1-800-233-4050 or look at their website (www.chadd.org). CHADD is the largest advocacy group for individuals with attention deficit disorders in this country. Ask them for the number of the branch of CHADD nearest to your community. Go to a meeting. Find out how other parents are navigating through the diagnosis/treatment maze in your area.
If there isn't a branch of CHADD near you, then try the Learning Disabilities Association of America at 1-888-300-6710 or the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities at 1-888-GR8-MIND. These organizations are extremely helpful to parents in providing information and support and in making referrals for diagnosis and treatment. They will also give you advice about your legal rights to an appropriate evaluation.
Second, ask CHADD, your pediatrician, or school guidance counselor/psychologist for a recommendation for a professional who can do a full evaluation for your sons. The school must do an evaluation if a parent requests it (put your request in writing), but they are rarely equipped to make a diagnosis for ADHD. They can identify any learning problems your sons may have, however, and make a recommendation for support services in the school if necessary (many children with ADHD may also have learning disabilities or related social-emotional problems). Even if a psychologist or other related professional makes the diagnosis of ADHD, he cannot prescribe the medication that may be called for. Only a medical doctor can do that.
Third, there are a number of wonderful resources for parents of children with ADHD that you might want to have a look at. I would recommend:
Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents by Russell A. Barkley
Dr. Larry Silver's Advice to Parents on ADHD (2nd edition) by Larry B. Silver, M.D.
Problem Solver Guide for Students with ADHD by Harvey C. Parker.
You do not have to go through this process all alone. There are many resources available for you and your children. Good luck!
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.