According to a recent report, children are being diagnosed with ADHD at younger ages, with one third of them earning a diagnosis before the age of six. The information was drawn from the 2014 National Survey of the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Tourette Syndrome, a follow-up to the 2011–2012 National Survey of Children’s Health. The median age of diagnosis for attention deficit disorder was seven years old.
ADHD rates have been rising at a steady 5% per year for over a decade. There is still no real test for a diagnosis. This is especially true for children under the age of six. But this doesn’t mean that the diagnoses are inaccurate. In fact, these findings give professionals good information that physicians are recommending for diagnosing children. If a system can be put into place, it will be easier to diagnose children as well as avoid misdiagnosing them. Researchers involved with the most recent report say the data shows promising trends on how children are being diagnosed.
Many off the hallmark traits of ADHD resemble typical behavior from a young child, so it’s important for the disorder to be properly recognized and diagnosed. While more than half of children with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are diagnosed by a primary care physician, there are limitations to the current process.
Not all first response physicians have time to get the collective input on a child’s behavior from parents, teachers and other school personnel. They are often asked to do so much in so little time that providing a complete comprehensive evaluation for ADHD is challenging. There are a multitude of factors to consider, including the fact that ADHD is a highly genetic condition. If one of the parents has undiagnosed ADHD it can be even harder to make a diagnosis.
However, the researchers were confident that despite the obstacles, the physicians were using the standard recommended behavior scales and incorporating feedback from people outside the family. This gave them confidence that the health care providers were doing all they could to give an accurate diagnosis.
Among the diagnosed children, about 65% of the initial concern was expressed by an immediate family member. But schools also played an important factor. Restless behavior in one third of the diagnosed children was spotted by someone at their school or daycare. So even though it can be challenging to diagnose someone with ADHD at a young age, it helps when multiple sources can confirm that the child exhibits symptoms.
Tell-tale symptoms of ADD and ADHD include:
- The child is on the go at all times. Most young children are very active, but they do settle down and take naps, resting their bodies and minds. A young child with ADHD never seems to rest.
- The child is easily distracted and has trouble staying focused.
- The child gets bored with a task before it is completed, even if it’s short or simple.
- The child often loses or misplaces toys, shoes and other items.
- The child appears not to listen when he or she is spoken to.
- The child fidgets or squirms excessively.
- The child has a quick temper or “short fuse,” reacting strongly when things don’t go his or her way.
Again, these can all be symptoms of a normal child. The difference is the intensity, Most toddlers and young children are active and impatient, but children with ADHD are incredibly active at all times and can hardly stand waiting at all. They may try to cut in front of a line or talk over someone else without a second thought. Their behavior seems out of their control.
Are you concerned your young child might have ADHD? Don’t panic—it’s very possible to get an accurate diagnosis, even at a young age. First, talk to other people who see your child often—daycare providers, teachers, babysitters, other family members. If they express the same concerns, talk to your child’s physician. Provide as much information as possible, and get detailed. The physician will need insights into the child’s environment and family health history.
If your child’s doctor thinks he or she has ADHD, you will be referred to a specialist (or you can find your own). A Newport Beach child psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD treatment is your best bet. The child psychiatrist will know what to look for and what treatment, if any, will be necessary after a thorough evaluation.
Not every child with ADD or ADHD needs medication. Sometimes, especially if the disorder is diagnosed at a young age, children with ADHD can learn behavioral therapy and work to correct their disruptive behavior. It will always be tougher for them to calm down or pay attention than it is for other children, but it can be done. Children with ADHD are not “bad” or purposely disruptive. Their brains are wired a little differently, but they are often very receptive to treatment.